Friday, January 23, 2015

Deadline to shift Gir lions over long back, PCCF reminds MoEF


Deadline to shift Gir lions over long back, PCCF reminds MoEF 
The Times Of India


BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh forest department has shot yet another letter to Union ministry of environment and forest reminding it that deadline set by Supreme Court for translocation of lions from Gir in Gujarat to Kuno in Madhya Pradesh's Sheopur district, has ended long back.

The letter was sent by state's principal conservator of forest (PCCF) and chief wildlife warden Narendra Kumar to additional director general of forests (wildlife) MoEF, Vinod Ranjan on December 30.

"Nothing has happened in the last six months in this matter. We have not been allotted any funds for the translocation. Prey base density of the extension area of the Kuno has also been studied meanwhile by the scientists of the WII as decided by the expert committee and its report must have been submitted to the GoI, MOEF as directed," the letter (copy in TOI's possession) reads.

Narendra Kumar wrote, "I had submitted in the last meeting of the expert committee to fix a timeframe for implementation of the action plan otherwise it would not take off. Once again I request you to take an early action in this regard because the deadline of 6 months decided by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India has passed long back."

This is reportedly the fourth reminder.

Reacting to a story published in ToI on December 5 that zoo-bred lions might roar in Kuno, Narendra Kumar said letters to Hyderabad zoo for a pair of lions was written by Van Vihar director for shifting them to zoos and not to Kuno.

"The zoo director has written to several zoos which was a routine letter but not a separate attempt by the state government to get zoo-bred lions for Kuno," Narendra Kumar wrote.

Wildlife and RTI activist Ajay Dubey who has moved a contempt petition against Gujarat government for dillydallying the shifting of tigers, told TOI that he would move an application before the court for urgent hearing on his petition.


Love for lions

Love for lions
The Hindu

Conservation biologist Dr. Ravi Chellam talks about his experiences at Gir and the proposed translocation of some lions to Kuno Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.

'Has a lion ever tried to attack you?' questions a curious little boy. "About two dozen times," answers Dr. Ravi Chellam, lion expert, while addressing a meeting of the Voices of the Wild (VOW). "If a lion wags its tail, it should be taken as a warning. They also give a low growl sometimes." The world's last population of Asiatic lions in Gir, Gujarat, are close to Ravi's heart and his subject of study for the last 30 years. But Gir is no more their only refuge, he says, as over 100 of them have spilled over and found homes in the patches of forests surrounding the sanctuary.

Ravi is an authority on the behavioural patterns, lifestyle and habitat of the Asiatic lions. He has radio-collared, monitored and studied them in close proximity. "Lions are the only social cats. They live in small or medium prides, typically headed by a large female lion," explains Ravi. "The males are loners or sometimes form two-member coalitions and patrol their territory regularly. Fierce fights and grave injuries are common," he says showing photographs.

Though Gir is rich and self-sustained, Ravi suggests translocation of some lions to avoid over-concentration in a single place. Gir at present is home to 400 lions. After legal tangles spanning 20 years, the translocation project was finally cleared by the Supreme Court last August.

Ravi cautions against a possible outbreak of canine distemper and an increased probability of man-animal conflict if action is not taken soon. "The current situation at Gir is like having too many eggs in a single basket. If the basket breaks, we will lose everything," he says. "There are roads, rail-lines and buses that pass through Gir and the lions move in and out constantly and are in contact with humans more than before."

Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh has been identified as the most viable place for introducing lions. Though Kuno acts as the buffer zone for the Tigers of Ranthambore, Ravi believes it would hardly affect the lions. "Tigers and lions have co-existed before. Translocation is like a life-insurance we buy for the lions of Gir, so that in case of calamities we will still have a separate population of lions unaffected," he asserts. Kuno has many features similar to Gir – like burgeoning prey population of chital, sambar and wild buffaloes, a deciduous landscape of grasslands expanding over 1,500 sq.kms and ample water resource from the Chambal river.

According to studies carried out by Ravi and other researchers, the dietary composition of the Gir lions has changed phenomenally over the years. "In the 70's, it was found that over 75 per cent of the lions' diet comprised livestock. Whereas, in 1993, a study revealed that wild prey formed more than 70 percent of the food the lions ate," observes Ravi. He says removing livestock from Gir is not a good idea, as cows and buffaloes still form over 30 per cent of the lions' diet.

"The native tribal people have always had a better understanding of wildlife than people like us," says Ravi. "Most instances of man-animal conflict involve outsiders and not the tribals. In India, it is difficult to cut off human interaction with the wild."

In the case of Gir, the Maldhari tribals who are primarily cattle-herders live in harmony with the lions. Their livestock is a prey base for the beast. "Moving them out will not help the lions much. Instead, unnecessary intrusion from outside should be kept under check."


Efforts being made for mating of Asiatic Lions pairs at Lions Safari in Etawah


Efforts being made for mating of Asiatic Lions pairs at Lions Safari in Etawah

The Times Of India


Kanpur: Preparations are underway at Lion Safari in Etawah to provide a conducive environment for mating of two pairs of Asiatic Lions. A forest team has been sent by experts to Gir Forest in Gujarat for training. The team will learn ways to take care of cubs. 

Authorities at the Lion Safari meanwhile have started making efforts to increase population of endangered species of lion. "Mating between Manan and Kumari had already taken place. Now, we are in the process of pairing Kuber and Greeshma and Gigo and Heer, the other two pairs of Asiatic Lions, and are hoping the females will mate with their resident males," said Divisional Forest Officer, Lion Safari, Etawah. 

The Lion Safari authorities also exude confidence about lioness Kumari, and said they hope that the population of big cat is all set to grow by March 2015. "If Kumari gets pregnant, then we expect it to give birth to its cub in March 2015," informed a Lion Safari official further. 

The news of pairing between Manan and Kumari has thrilled the state forest department, which received a major jolt after the death of Vishnu and Lakshmi (a pair of Asiatic lions) recently. 

"We have started monitoring these wild cats and has asked keepers and veterinarians to be extra vigilant," informed KK Singh, director Lion Safari. Taking no chance, the Lion Safari authorities have permitted entry to the `house' only to the keepers who are monitoring each activity of the Kumari, sources in the Lion Safari said. It is a positive news for us after the death of Vishnu and Lakshmi. "During pregnancy, female moves slowly. We are tracking its movements on regular basis to confirm its pregnancy," said another forest department official. 

But the authorities said that they know there's a lot that could go wrong. "Even if the birth itself goes smoothly, we do not know how lion or lioness will react to their offspring. Some lions don't react well. Keeping this in mind, we hope, the team, which has been sent to Gir Forest to learn all the hand rearing skills so that they can properly nurture them and take good care of cubs." 

Listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) was once widely distributed across southwest Asia. 

*Some 150.83 hectares of land in Fisher Reserve Forest area on Etawah-Gwalior National Highway was acquired and notified as lion safari in the year 2005. 

*It was shelved by the Mayawati government in 2007. It was again revived after Samajwadi Party came back to power in March 2012. 

*The Union ministry of environment and forests approved the master layout plan of the project in December 2012. 

*The state government had sanctioned Rs 89 crore for the Lion Safari project and authorised the Uttar Pradesh Awas Vikas Parishad for construction and execution of the safari. 

*Four pairs of Asiatic Lions have already been brought to Lucknow Zoo and Kanpur Zoo from Hyderabad zoo and Rajkot and Sakkarbaug zoos in Gujarat. 

*Vishnu and Lakshmi, one of the four pairs brought from Hyderabad zoo, died recently after coming in contact with serious disease. 

*June 2015 has been set as a deadline for the construction work regarding the project. 

3 lions overthrow 2 kings in Gir coup

3 lions overthrow 2 kings in Gir coup
The Times Of India

AHMEDABAD: Three sub-adult lions in the Gir sanctuary have carried out a coup in the jungle and have dethroned their rulers. These sub-adults — aged between three and four years — have conquered a huge territory right in the middle of the tourist zone.

The three, all kids of the same father but of different lionesses, ganged up against a couple of 10-year-old lions, vanquished them and drove them out of their territory. Now the trio rules over four groups of lions consisting of six lionesses and several cubs.

Senior officials from the forest department who have documented the takeover say that even today the two exiled lions visit the territory every now and then. Sandeep Kumar, the deputy conservator of forests, who is keeping a watch on proceedings along with field officials, says that the new rulers are moving in on other prides as well.

"The behavioral change in Asiatic lions related to the optimization of male reproductive period, association among males, enhanced physical and reproductive fitness, and better survival rate are all manifestations of broad genetic base," Kumar says. "The three took over the territory from lions which were strong enough. Two of the tree lions had first made an attempt to attack the older kings." But when they found the two adult males to be tough opponents, the third sub-adult was brought in as reinforcement. The three now share six lionesses for mating. Usually a lion is ready for mating at the age of three but the first mating takes place only after a territory is conquered.

"Gir forest earlier had one lion capturing territory, but later the social fabric changed and with the male population growing, two lions began capturing territories and even sharing lionesses for mating," Kumar says. He said that three lions taking over a pride at a very young age represented a rare wildlife event.

H S Singh, a member of the national board of wildlife and a former IFS officer, says: "Usually lions capture territory at the age of five and it is normally two sub-adults who become kings. I would say that this new capture is abnormal behavior as these lions have captured territory despite their age."

Wildlife lovers have joined hands to give the lion king of Gir some peace and quietness.


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