Monday, May 25, 2015



Ahmedabad Mirror

The remarkable growth of lion population in the state (by 27 per cent), is not just a matter of joy but one of concern too. Especially, considering the possibility of conflict between man and animal in the new territories where the animals have been spotted. The recent headcount of the majestic animal revealed that lions cover an area of 22,000 sq km in the state. Of 523 lions, 93 have moved beyond the limits of the Gir Forest National Park — the count was 74 in 2010.

This movement indicates that the conflict between man and animal has increased and is moving to other areas, too. In this scenario, shifting the lions to another state may not be the ideal solution. That, in fact, lies with the people of Gujarat, especially the people settled in Saurashtra. As per reports, lions have been spotted in territories outside Junagadh, with several being spotted in Amreli (Savarkundla, Rajula, Jafrabad towns), Bhavnagar, Mahuva also the riverbank of Shatrunjay in Palitana. Going by its nature, lions never adopt to a new place unless well acquainted with the land.

In the case of these new places, which lack forest cover, lions have found shelter in bushes and farmlands. The animals have been moving out of Gir to these lands in the last few years, but have always returned to Gir. This time around, the lions did not return to the Gir Forest National Park. Not surprising since the capacity of the park was surpassed a decade ago. As per statistics, Gir has space for not 
more than 275 lions, forcing the exceeding numbers to move out. In such a situation, there is an urgent need to create awareness among residents of these new territories on how to 'behave with lions'.

This should be among the state government's top agendas. And it is possible! The Maldharis of Gir have been maintained this decorum since decades and now the people living in other parts of Saurashtra need to adapt this style of dealing with lions. A lion's behaviour changes as do the phases of his life. For instance, it requires complete privacy when mating. But is approachable if it is alone. During our days in the Gir forest, we encountered lions several times; we would maintain proper distance and the lion would walk away. But not maintaining this decorum may result in conflict between man and animal.

That is why there is an immediate need to 
help people develop a rapport with the lions. The government should start camps and awareness programs to help the residents deal with this change in their environment and be prepared for situations. For instance, how to react and what to do when a lion enters your farm? Interestingly, the lions seem to be loving their new habitat considering the success ratio to get prey is 8:1 in the forest but 3:1 in the new habitat. People of Saurashtra love lions and aren't bothered even if their livestock is destroyed occasionally.

And several take pride when they spot an Asiatic lion. But there is a limit to their tolerance. Unless awareness is created and a harmonious method of living is formulated, there is a likelihood of conflict between man and animal, leading to hatred. After all, we cannot grow forests and will not be able to tell people to make space for lions or reduce 
farm land. So the best option is to learn how to live with the 'pride' and maintain the dignity of the Asiatic lions.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The lion is India's

The lion is India's
Business Standard

For Asiatic lion's sake, Gujarat should allow some to leave Gir

After the impressive findings of the latest tiger census, which indicated a robust 30 per cent rise in their population in the past five years, the lion headcount this year has shown an almost equally impressive 27 per cent surge in the number of these big cats in a similar time span. The Gir forest in Gujarat, the only remaining abode of Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica), which have vanished from all other habitats in the subcontinent and neighbouring countries, now has 523 lions, against 411 in 2010. These rare lions, which were put in the "critically endangered" category by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2000, were upgraded to the "endangered" class in 2011 in view of the steady increase in their numbers. There are good chances now that they may be taken out of the threatened bracket as cubs of less than three years of age and having a full breeding life ahead of them form a sizable chunk of their current population. Africa is the only other place where lions still exist but their count there has rapidly shrunk over the past decades.

However, the 2015 lion census has thrown up some disquieting trends as well, which merit urgent attention. The most noteworthy among these is that the lion population has reached almost the saturation point in the core area of the Gir national park. Their number is rising mainly in the areas outside the protected zone - thus bringing them close enough to human habitations to cause man-animal conflicts. The Gujarat government has stonewalled all queries, and maintained that locals do not grudge the predation of their cattle by lions. Even if this is true - and it stretches credulity - it is unlikely to remain so if the lion population continues to rise.

The Gujarat government now has to be conscious of the larger picture and do what is best for the survival of the Asiatic lion. The last surviving population of Asiatic lions should no longer be kept in a single habitat in Gir; instead, it should be dispersed to other areas where they used to roam about till the beginning of the 20th century. Restricting them to a solitary locale exposes them to grave risks due to disease epidemics, genetic deformities, forest fires or other unforeseeable calamities. In this context, it is worth recalling that the bulk of the lion population in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park was annihilated in the early 1990s by epidemics, forcing the authorities to look for a second home for them. The Gujarat government, with a focus geared more towards tourism rather than on conservation, has prepared a proposal to open another lion sanctuary close to the present one to ease the pressure on the Gir forest in the Junagarh area. However, that is really not the same thing as providing a wholly new homestead to these lions. Madhya Pradesh has already expressed keenness to provide a safe home for the Asiatic lions in the Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary; but Gujarat has refused to part with any lion for this purpose. The Supreme Court's order in 2013 for relocation of some prides to the Kuno park has also remained unimplemented, as Gujarat does not want to lose the distinction of being the lone home for this rare lion species. A fresh appeal is said to have been filed for the reconsideration of the apex court's earlier decree citing some new grounds for opposing the transfer of lions. However, regardless of the final judicial verdict, it would be in the best interests of the Asiatic lions if the Gujarat government relented and allowed these lions to inhabit more than one territory.


Leopard attacks forest guard in Junagadh district of Gujarat

Leopard attacks forest guard in Junagadh district of Gujarat

The Indian Express
A forest guard was injured after he was attacked by a leopard in Virdi village of Junagadh district late on Monday evening.

Forest officers said, the guard Mites Dodiya (31) was arranging a trap cage on farm of Dhiru Mori, a farmer of Virdi village at around 7:30 pm when a leopard came rushing all of a sudden and pounced on him.

"However, the guard was experienced and therefore, despite being alone, he shouted away the leopard. He sustained minor injuries and was taken to government hospital in Maliya-Hatina. He was discharged after primary treatment," Dipak Thakkar, deputy conservator of forest (DCF) of social forestry division in Junagadh told the Indian Express on Tuesday.

Thakkar further said that the trap cage had been placed in the Virdi on Sunday after villagers complained to forest department that the leopard had been troubling them for the last few days.

"However, the leopard did not took the bait on the first day. Therefore, Dodiya was in the process of relocating the cage and placing a bait when the leopard attacked him," said the DCF.

Virdi village is near Devaliya range of Gir West forests which is also home to Asiatic lions.

Thakkar said that forest officers had reset the trap cage and were trying to rescue the leopard.



Now that the lion population in Gir has risen, should some of them be moved out?

Now that the lion population in Gir has risen, should some of them be moved out?

Now that the lion population in Gir has risen, should some of them be moved out?

A new census of Asiatic lions has rekindled the debate on relocating animals and humans from the sanctuary.

Lions are spilling out of the Gir sanctuary and into the rest of Saurashtra. The latest and the largest yet census of Asiatic lions shows a 27% increase in the lion population from 411 in 2010 to 523 this year. But a more interesting statistic of the 22,000 kilometre-wide count is that the lion population within the sanctuary grew only 4%, while the number in surrounding areas and closer to human habitation grew by a whopping 130%.

The new census has again brought to the fore the debate about translocating lions to other wildlife reserves in the country. Translocating lions has been proposed in the past by the National Wildlife Board and is part of the National Wildlife Action Plan.

The Supreme Court in 2013 ordered the Gujarat government to shift some lions from Gir to Kuno in Madhya Pradesh. The Gujarat government has resisted the move on the grounds that the animal is the pride of the state that cannot be shared with another state. HS Singh, former conservator of the Gir Sanctuary and current member of the National Wildlife Board, argues that Kuno's climate is unsuitable for lions. "In Kuno, the temperatures recorded are 49 degree Celsius. In Gir, because of the coastal area, the coast moderates the temperatures and it remains 2-3 degree Celsius lower," Singh said.

Wildlife biologist Ravi Chellam counters this claim on the grounds that the lion is a highly adaptable animal and has historically existed in very different temperature zones and habitats. Chellam is sure that translocation is essential to ensure the big cat's long-term survival. "Let us view translocation as life insurance for free-ranging lions," he said. "We forget about the fact that habitat is being lost, habitat is being fragmented. Having all your eggs in one basket and those risks far outweigh [the cost] even if you kill ten animals in the translocation process." The fear of losing a majority of lions in one fell swoop is real. In 1994, a canine distemper infection in the Serengeti wiped out 30% of the African lionsthere.

Man-animal interaction

The other question that keeps cropping up is that of resettling the Maldhari tribe, leaving the sanctuary to animals. In the early 1970s, lions preyed mostly on livestock, with the chital, sambar and wild boar making up only 25% of their prey. The government at the time undertook a project to resettle the Maldharis in an attempt to leave the forest undisturbed for the animals. In subsequent years, the forest saw a dramatic rise in the numbers of wild prey as grazing land was freed up.

However, the persistence of the Gir lions is closely linked to the cohabitants of its forest – the Maldharis. "The problem was not really the Maldhari cattle but migratory cattle coming in from as far away as Kutch," said Chellam about Gir's livestock overkill in the 1970s. "It was the seasonal influx that was a problem."

A 2013 study by researchers at the Wildlife Institute of India found that the lions and Maldharis have an interdependent relationship that benefited the Maldharis economically too. The word Maldhari means "owner of cattle stock". The community of pastoralists live scattered through the national park in small clusters of families, each one called a ness. Lions still prey on Maldhari livestock as a significant food source. But the tribe has long accepted livestock raids by the felines as a part of their existence in its home. Scientists and journalists visiting the Gir have reported Maldharis saying that a lion kill is considered an offering and written off.

As long as lions exist and thrive, the Gir forest will exist and thrive, leaving the Maldharis their traditional livelihood of cattle grazing and living off forest produce. Free grazing rights in the Gir and compensation offered by the government offset almost 80% of the Maldhari cattle-rearing cost, the wildlife institute study said.

Like all other communities, the Maldharis' relationship with their surroundings has evolved over the years. As they have started selling milk and dairy products commercially, refrigerated trucks now come into the sanctuary right up to the nesses to collect the produce. This leads to accidents with prey animals, noise and dust pollution. Yet, Chellam said, there is still no ecological or social justice reasons to relocate the Maldharis.

"As such, the Maldharis' relationship with the animals is not abrasive in anyway but with the population spilling over if they want to move out of the region it should be facilitated properly," said Meena Venkataraman, an independent lion researcher. Venkataraman observes that dairy is a profitable and good business for the Maldharis but coming generations may not opt for this line of hard work.

The Nawab who saved the lion

The Asiatic lion, which is only found in the Gir and its vicinity, has been on the brink of extinction at least twice in recorded history. In what might have been the first lion census, British officer Colonel Watson 1880 counted only 12 lion in the Gir forests. Till then the lion was fair game and bounties were offered on lions, describes Sudipta Mitra in the book Gir Forest and the Saga of the Asiatic Lion. The Nawab of Junagarh was one of the first champions to come to the animals' rescue. He banned the killing of lions unless it was with his approval and the area was transformed into a royal game reserve.

By 1905 the number of lions had climbed again to a respectable 100, before plummeting again to below 20 in 1913, as hunting lions for game continued and animal-human conflict became more common.

By the 1920s, when it became increasingly clear that western India was the last refuge of the Asiatic lion, British and Indian authorities threw their weight behind protecting the animal – a policy that continued into independent India. Ever since the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary was created in 1965, the population of lions has only steadily grown.



Conservation of Gir lions a success; but conservationists fear risks of single-location reserves

Conservation of Gir lions a success; but conservationists fear risks of single-location reserves
The Economic Times

Kalyanji Bhai Jamuna Das Bhai Godhasara was plucking raw mangoes on his farmland in Dhava, a village in Gir Somnath district, on May 1 when a lioness attacked him.

Godhasara was lucky as the lioness retreated after simply injuring him. To the unaided eye, this may appear to be a case of a carnivore attacking its prey — call it man-animal conflict — as can be expected in a jungle terrain teeming with wild beasts, but the reality is just the reverse.

Locals will tell you that the lions — and lionesses — of Gir rarely attack humans unless provoked. In this case, a family in the neighbourhood of Godhasara had many visitors for a family marriage and apparently the lioness, along with her two cubs, was resting in the nearby farmland. It is not rare for the big cats to move beyond their natal territory in the 20,000 square km forests of Saurashtra and be spotted inside villages.

Villagers say that the visitors from the marriage home frequently went to see the lioness and her cubs and even threw things at her. This, the locals say, was the trigger for the lioness to attack.

Gir in the southern Saurashtra peninsula of Gujarat, which is the lone abode of the Asiatic lion in the wild — some 523 Asiatic lions live there as per the 2015 census — is otherwise a place where humans and lions live peacefully.

"Lions do not live with us. We live with the lions here. There is no question of fear [from the lions]," says Parbat Bhai Seva Bhai Chavda, a Maldhari tribal who resides in the heart of the Gir forest.

"They are our identity," adds Chavda, who owns two buffaloes and three cows. The tribal group of Maldharis ('mal' means livestock and 'dhari' protector), who are traditionally cattleherders, have been living closely with the felids for the past several decades.

"Gir lions is a remarkable conservation success story...But unless we translocate and establish at least one additional population, all the success achieved over the last 100 years may come to naught"

Ravi Chellam, wildlife biologist
There are nearly 8,400 Maldharis living in the Gir Forest National Park. Around 300 Vanya Prani Mitras, or friends of the forest animals, have been recruited to ensure that the lions are not attacked if they stray into nearby villages. Incidents of lion attacks, they say, are few and far between.

But attacks on their cattle are not as infrequent. "Sometimes the beasts pick up one of our cattle — but that's their food. It does not disturb us," says Haresh Chowda, another Maldhari who runs a tea stall for tourists and owns 11 buffaloes and four cows.

Apart from the Maldharis, a group of people of African origin known as the Siddis reside on the fringes of the forest in village Jambur. They were reportedly brought by the Nawab of Junagarh from the African shores for laying railway tracks in the region. Today, they have adapted to the Gujarati culture and lifestyle. They are mostly involved in construction work by the day and dance to the African tunes by the night for tourists.

According to the 2015 census, the total lion population is up 27% from 411 in 2010. "Factors like timely rescue, improvement in habitat, water management, mitigation of man-animal conflict and more awareness among the locals have contributed to the rise in lion count," says Sandeep Kumar, deputy conservator of forests, Gir National Park and Sanctuary.


Gujarat govt. to create task force to study Asiatic lion’s growing habitat

Gujarat govt. to create task force to study Asiatic lion's growing habitat
Northern Callifornian

Gujarat govt. to create task force to study Asiatic lion's growing habitat
The government of Gujarat state of India has announced its decision to form a high-level task force to study the expanding habitat of Asiatic lions. The announcement followed the latest census report that revealed a notable increase in the number of Asiatic lions outside the protected area of Gir National Park & Sanctuary.

The forest department will form the task force to analyse the census data in the wake of growing lion population outside Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, the sole home of the Asiatic lions, officials said.

The aim of the task force will be to prepare a report about growing habitat of lions outside the sanctuary and suggest measures to reduce man-animal conflicts, they said.

"We will chalk out a plan based on the census data, which suggests increase in habitat area of lions. I have asked the officials to form a task force comprising 4-5 senior officials to suggest corrective measures on how to reduce threat on lions and decrease man-animal conflicts," Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) in state forest and environment department P K Taneja said.

As per the 14th lion census, the results of which were revealed on May 10 this year, the lion population has gone up to 523, which was 411 in the 2010 census.

While the Gir sanctuary is spread across 1,412 sq kms, the census report of 2015 suggests that the habitat area of the lions has increased to around 22,000 sq kms, which is almost double than 2010.

Out of total 523 lions spotted during this census, 268 were registered in Junagadh district, 44 in adjoining Gir-Somnath district, 174 in Amreli and 37 in Bhavnagar.

When asked if the state government was considering to extend the sanctuary limits or form a new sanctuary where lion habitat is found, Taneja said the committee will also look into these aspects. He also pointed out the need for re-deployment of forest staff to keep a check on lion movement outside the sanctuary.

"The task force will also suggest us all necessary steps to be taken for re-deployment of forest staff in areas outside the sanctuary. Before taking any decision on forming a new sanctuary, we need to analyse several aspects about the availability of herbivores as well as quality of forests," Taneja said.

Officials also admitted that lion population has significantly increased outside the sanctuary, particularly in Amreli district, where the number of the big cats has gone up from 108 in 2010 to 174 in 2015.

"Amreli as well as Bhavnagar are showing significant presence of lions. To avoid chances of man-animal conflict, we are now establishing regular communication with locals and farmers. We are also providing training to social forestry staff to handle the situation," Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) C N Pandey said.

"We have also launched an Asiatic Lion Landscape Scheme last year to handle lion population outside the sanctuary. Our main aim is to improve the habitat of lions in those areas and take measures for better conflict management," Pandey added.



Task force to study growing habitat of lion

Task force to study growing habitat of lion
The Indian Express

Population of lions in Gir forest and other protected areas has gone up by 27 % as compared to 2010.

 lion, lion population, habitat of lion, lion census 2015, Forest Department, Asiatic lions , Gir Forest lion, ahmedabad news, city news, local news, Gujarat news, Indian Express

The task force will submit its report by next month.

Days after lion census 2015 concluded that population of Asiatic lions in Gir forest and other protected areas has gone up by 27 per cent as compared to 2010, state Forest Department on Monday formed a task force to study the phenomenon and form a strategy for conservation of increased population and lion landscape.

The office of the principal chief conservator of forests and head of forest force issued an order announcing constitution of the task force under the chairmanship of S C Pant, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) and chief wildlife warden of Gujarat. It will have additional principal chief conservator of forests (land), director of GEER Foundation, chief conservator of forests (vigilance), and chief conservator of forests (CCF), wildlife circle of Junagadh as its members. Additionally, CCF IT, and deputy conservator of forests (DCF) of wildlife division, Sasan and DCF of Gir East division will also be members of the task force.

 "This task force is a committee which will tell us if any administrative changes, like allocation of manpower needs to be realigned, what type of training such manpower would require etc. post the census results. The committee will look into all these administrative issues and government will take appropriate decisions based on census," CN Pandey, head of forest force, toldThe Indian Express.

The task force has been asked to study and analyse results of the 2015 lion census and prepare a report based on which a strategy can be formed for future conservation of increased population of endangered lions and management of expanded territory of the species.

The order states that it is a matter of happiness and satisfaction that the lion population has increased by 27 per cent as compared to 2010. Currently, there are 523 lions in Gir forest, other protected areas as well as revenue areas as compared to 411 counted in 2010. Similarly, the area where lion movement has also gone up to 22,000 sq km as compared to 10,000 sq km in year 2010.

"However, the population rise is likely to pose new management challenges in the future. It is more important, therefore, that we shall form a strategy for lion conservation in future for the increased lion population and increased area of lion landscape," the order states.

The task force has been asked to submit its report by next month.



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lessons from Gir

Lessons from Gir
The Hindu

The credible contribution of forest dwellers in ensuring an increase in the Asiatic lion population defies all the misconceptions that they are often the root cause of wildlife destruction and habitat fragmentation (Editorial, May 14). Instead, these tribes have proved their integral and close-knit relationship with the forests. As these tribes have proved their worth, the government can proactively involve them in biodiversity conservation. I am sure that there are many such examples in forest stretches in India as it is they who understand the environment more pragmatically than any of us. The Gir lesson also shows that the time has come to respect their traditional rights over land, minor forest produce and water.

Nitin Chauhan, Noida, Uttar Pradesh


Transfer surplus Gir lions to Madhya Pradesh, Digvijaya Singh says

Transfer surplus Gir lions to Madhya Pradesh, Digvijaya Singh says 

The Economic Times

NEW DELHI:: Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh on Wednesday called for the translocation of "surplus" lions from the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh.

A lion in the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat. In 2013, the Supreme Court had ordered the translocation of Asiatic Lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh, stating that since the species is facing extinction, it needs a "second home". (Getty Images file photo)
A lion in the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat. In 2013, the Supreme Court had ordered the translocation of Asiatic Lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh, stating that since the species is facing extinction, it needs a "second home". (Getty Images file photo) 

Taking to Twitter, Singh said: "Gujarat has been denying lions from Gir to be translocated to MP despite MP having made all arrangements in Kunu National Park."

"Now Gujarat has surplus lions it should allow lions to be translocated to MP There should be no ego issue as both states are BJP ruled," he added .. 
n 2013, the Supreme Court had ordered the translocation of Asiatic Lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh, stating that since the species is facing extinction, it needs a "second home".

Transfer surplus Gir lions to Madhya Pradesh, Digvijaya Singh says
An Asiatic lionesses play in the shade of a tree near the village of Sasan, on the edge of Gir Wildlife Sanctuary. (AFP file photo)

However, the Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat governments are reportedly engaged in a legal battle over the same. The Rajkot-based NGO Wildlife Conservation Trust has also challenged the order.

A census carried out this month has fixed the lion population in Gir, Gujarat at 523. 




Leonine pride

Leonine pride
The Statesman


Wildlife success stories are seldom scripted, hence a roar of commendation is due for efforts resulting in the population of lions in the Gir Forest rising from 411 in the last count in 2010 to 523 in the census conducted earlier this month, up by 27 per cent. While in typical political fashion the sycophantic state government is hailing it as yet another achievement of Narendra Modi, the protection programme actually took root when a 1974 count pointed to only 180 of the last of the Asiatic lions: which sent alarm bells ringing. Simultaneously, it is important to note the thrust that Mr Modi, when chief minister, had given to the conservation effort and it is hoped his successor will sustain the campaign. The signal that Anandiben Patel sought to send out by opting to personally release the census report at a media-event will resonate only if conservation remains in top gear even after the Modi-effect dissipates. It would be wonderful if the "leonine legend" spreads eastwards, and Vasundhra Raje comes good on her promise to restore Rajasthan's "state bird", the Great Indian bustard, to its unique brand of glory. Big cats are not all that matter, though their doing well does indicate that conditions in the eco-system at large are generally favourable. 

A happy feature of the lion census is that over 200 of the cats identified were in the subadult age, pointing to unfettered breeding. Opinion will be divided over the lions extending - or re-capturing - their turf so that it now spans from 22,000 sq km. While the maximum, 267, were resident in the Gir many had made their home beyond it, which is an indication of the sanctuary not being able to sustain the increased population. And that raises the question if the specifics of the conservation drive can be similarly extended: apart from covering most of the traditional "blind-wells" and cracking down on electrified fences around a few villages, a critical role had been played when involving the local populace to defuse potential man-animal conflicts.

The Maldhari community had been fully supportive, 300 of them had served in groups that enlightened villagers not to attack lions that may have strayed into their lands. Can that mission be extended to the lions' extended territory? It is against that reality - not to mention roads, railways and pilgrimages to certain temples - that the success story needs evaluation. Would it not be magnanimous if in its hour of glory the Gujarat authorities re-considered their opposition to the apex court- approved plan to relocate some lions in a forest in the Kuno-Palpur game park in Madhya Pradesh. The "pride" over the lions must not be limited by parochial pique.

Partners in conservation

Partners in conservation
The Hindu

That wildlife conservation efforts cannot succeed in the long term without the proactive involvement of local communities living in and around forest areas has been a well-established fact. The latest lion census conducted in Gujarat reaffirms this. The exercise has shown a 27 per cent rise in the feline's numbers, which now stand at 523, compared to 411 in 2010. Forest officials acknowledge that this conservation success story would not have come about without support from the Maldharis, a nomadic tribe of cattle-rearers, and also farmers living in the vicinity of the Gir National Park. Lion territory in Gujarat spans some 22,000 sq km across four districts — Junagadh, Bhavnagar, Amreli and Gir-Somnath. This covers 2,600 villages with an approximate population of 7,00,000. Lions now frequent more villages than in the past, with about 167 of them found roaming outside the protected forest area, creating hardly any conflict situations. The lions have actually helped control the population not only of nilgai, its principal source of food, but also of wild boars, which frequently destroy standing crops. Thus, they have benefited the local communities. These communities have reciprocated by protecting the animals from poachers, resisting retaliation when lions prey on cattle, and even building parapet walls around farm-wells to minimise the accidental death of lions that may fall into them.

Although humans and animals have coexisted for ages, the story has not always had a happy ending. Challenges posed by human casualties, and damage to crops, buildings and so on from wildlife intrusions have led one group of conservationists to argue that villagers residing in forest areas ought to be sent out. But another group insists that such a move will result in the loss of goodwill of local communities, impeding conservation efforts. The question is how goodwill could be generated when fear of the animal itself looms large. In Gir, it has become possible to inculcate a sense of pride and ownership among local communities regarding the animal. They share a virtual spiritual bond with the lion. Down south in Valparai, Tamil Nadu, meanwhile, there has been a gradual decline in human fatalities caused by wild elephants after early-warning systems that use text messages and flash light alerts were deployed with help from forest-dwellers within a 2-km radius of herd locations. The Nature Conservation Foundation that has been working on this has found that often it is lack of awareness about the animal's presence that results in casualties. When the 2006 Forest Rights Act upheld the forest-dwellers' traditional right to land, conservationists resisted it over concerns of habitat fragmentation. But as testimonies from Gir and elsewhere demonstrate, making local communities active partners can create a win-win situation on the conservation front.



Transfer surplus Gir lions to MP, says Dijvijay Singh

Transfer surplus Gir lions to MP, says Dijvijay Singh
Ani News

New Delhi, May 13 (ANI): Senior Congress leader Digvjiay Singh on Wednesday called for the translocation of 'surplus' lions from the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh.

Taking to Twitter, Singh said, "Gujarat has been denying lions from Gir to be translocated to MP despite MP having made all arrangements in Kunu NationalPark."

"Now Gujarat has surplus lions it should allow lions to be translocated to MP There should be no ego issue as both states are BJP ruled," he added.

In 2013, the Supreme Court had ordered the translocation of Asiatic Lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh, stating that since the species is facing extinction, it needs a 'second home'.

However, the Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat governments are reportedly engaged in a legal battle over the same. The Rajkot-based NGO Wildlife Conservation Trust has also challenged the order.

A census carried out this month has fixed the lion population in Gir, Gujarat at 523. (ANI)



Gir lions

Gir lions
The Hindu

The fact of there now being more lions in Gir ("Lions' roar grows louder in Gir", May 11) only increases the urgency of the need for a new sanctuary. The Asiatic lions are now crammed into a 560-square-mile or 1,450-square-kilometre area. Gir has as many lions as it can hold, in fact too many. As a wildlife researcher who once visited India for research, I can recall how officials were worried, off the record, about outbreaks of disease or natural disasters having an impact on the lions. The pressure on officials was more about "showing numbers" than to worry about such things. Gir's lions are especially vulnerable to disease because they descend from as few as a dozen individuals and which points to the vulnerabilities of inbreeding.

Western geneticists are on record as saying that most Gir lions, in terms of DNA printing, are likeidentical twins." Because of this small gene pool, there is also a record of reproductive difficulties and deformities. Perhaps the Indian authorities need to take a leaf out of the book of European zoos which collaborated under a strict breeding programme and boosted their Asiatic lion count to a healthy (in the true, genetic sense) level. May be the Gir lion pool can be "refreshed" with these animals.

Raghu Mukherji, London


Enable Big Cats to Thrive, End Extinction Fears


Enable Big Cats to Thrive, End Extinction Fears
The New Indian Express
The latest census of India's population of the endangered Asiatic Lion shows that their numbers are up 27 per cent from those thrown up by the previous census conducted five years back. In 2000, the Asiatic Lion was declared the most endangered large cat species in the world by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The latest census shows that India has managed to bring back the Asiatic lion from the brink of extinction through a single protected reserve. While the rise in their population is welcome, it also poses fresh challenges for managing their habitat and conflict with humans. The slow and promising growth in their numbers is satisfactory, but 50 lions still die annually due to a variety of threats. Experts suggest the big cats need to be relocated to another habitat to ensure their safety because a single sanctuary is detrimental to their safety.

However, despite the Supreme Court ruling in 2013 that some of them should be shifted to another sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, the Gujarat government has repeatedly tried to appeal the decision and refused to transfer the lions. The rise in their population in Gir sanctuary should not be treated as an excuse to cling to its fauna, which they regard as the "pride of the state". In the larger interest of preserving Asiatic lions, the Gujarat government must start cooperating and put everything else aside to save the lion via the translocation programme of the magnificent animal.

Considering that there have been reports of the tiger population increasing by 30 per cent, the rise in the number of lions suggests conservation programmes have finally begun to show results notwithstanding the hazards of their shrinking habitats due to the rise in human population and also of poaching. It goes without saying that these wonderful creatures are high revenue earners for the government because they attract tourists from far and near. The resultant infrastructure for visitors also boosts job potential. India is one of the rare nations where both the lion and the tiger can be found. It must make the most of the "achievement" by expanding the wildlife sanctuaries and creating new ones since the two species have to be kept separate. Having succeeded in saving them from extinction, India has to enable them to flourish.



More Lions, More Problems in Gujarat's Gir Wildlife Sanctuary

More Lions, More Problems in Gujarat's Gir Wildlife Sanctuary

More Lions, More Problems in Gujarat's Gir Wildlife Sanctuary

AHMEDABAD:  The good news is that there are now 112 more Asiatic lions in Gujarat than there were in 2010. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi's thrilled. "News that made me very happy- 27% increase in Asiatic lions. Kudos to locals, officials & wildlife lovers whose efforts led to this," Mr Modi tweeted.

The not-so-good news, at least for humans, is that 93 of those magnificent but deadly beasts have been spotted outside the area of the Gir National Park & Wildlife Sanctuary, that is, closer to human habitats.

Five years ago, only 74 out of 411 Asiatic lions were found outside the National Park. This year, 93 of 523 lions -- a 126 percent increase from 2010 -- have moved beyond the protected areas of the National Park, according to the 14th Asiatic Lion Census 2015. Lions have now been spotted in Amreli and Bhavnagar districts in Saurashtra, which are 50-100 kms from the National Park. The Gir covers an area of 22,000 square kilometres - almost double the area covered in 2010.

Forest officials say that the movement of lions to newer areas is good, because it means more breeding bases are being created. Along with those increased bases, though, wildlife authorities also see the need to increase the size and number of protected areas for the Asiatic lions. This will keep man-animal conflict under check and also allow better wildlife management, they say.

Forest officials add that communications links between forest patrol teams, in areas where lions are in big numbers, has to be improved. "We also need to create more awareness amongst the 'maldharis' -- the locals livings in the forest areas -- on how to avoid man-animal conflict, and, more importantly, on how to improve the landscape, which includes increasing the prey 
base in the forests," says Dr Sandeep Kumar, Deputy Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Gir.

Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel stressed the need for better coordinated efforts for the conservation of Asiatic lions. "The responsibility is not just of the forest department. We will have to involve other departments like irrigation, revenue, non-governmental organizations," she said.

Modi happy with jump in Asiatic lion count

Modi happy with jump in Asiatic lion count
New Kerela

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday expressed happiness over the latest census of Asiatic lions that registered an increase of 27 percent in the population of the endangered species.

"News that made me very happy- 27% (percent) increase in Asiatic lions. Kudos to locals, officials and wildlife lovers whose efforts led to this," the prime minister tweeted.

Found in 
Gujarat's Gir forest, the population of big cats has gone up by 27 percent from the last census in 2010 to 523. There are 109 male lions, 201 females and 213 cubs in the Gir sanctuary and nearby forest areas of Junagadh district. 


Asiatic lion number touches 523: Census

Asiatic lion number touches 523: Census
Business standard
Increase of 27% since 2010; Gujarat taunts Madhya Pradesh for decrease in the number of tigers

Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel taunted the Madhya Pradesh government for decrease in the number of tigers in the neighbouring state.

"Habitation area of lions in Gujarat has increased, which is a good sign. Since the number of lions have increased, it is our responsibility to protect them and we will ensure their conservation," Patel said, announcing the census on the population of Asiatic lions in Gujarat.

"The neighbouring state of Madhya Pradesh also carried out a tiger census according to which the number of tigers declined. I am sure that our Prime Minister will look into it," Patel said.

The number of Asiatic lions in Gir sanctuary and its surrounding areas has gone up to 523, an increase of 27 per cent since 2010, according to the latest census report.

The 2010 census had revealed the figure of Asiatic lions to be 411, she said, adding that their population has increased by 27 per cent.

As per this year's census, there are 109 male lions, 201 female lions and 213 sub-adults as well as cubs whereas in the 2010 census, the figure of male lions stood at 97, female lions were 162 and cubs were 152. The state governments of MP and Gujarat which are both led by the BJP, have been fighting a legal battle on translocation of Asiatic lions from Gujarat's Gir lion sanctuary to the Kuno Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.

On April 15, 2013, the Supreme Court had ordered translocation of Asiatic lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh, saying that the species is under threat of extinction and needed a second home.

Asiatic lion population in Gujarat rises to 523

Asiatic lion population in Gujarat rises to 523

Deccan Herald

The number of female lions is double that of male lions

The population of Asiatic lions in Gujarat has seen a rise of over 27 per cent since 2010 and today stands at 523.
An eight-year-old asiatic lion at the Kamla Nehru Zoological Gardens in Ahmedabad. AFP
According to figures released on Sunday evening by Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel in Sasan Gir, the last abode of endangered Asiatic lions, the population of lions in the region had risen from 411 in 2010 to 523. Of these, 109 are males, 201 females and 213 cubs.

The other interesting aspect of the findings of census this time is that the number of female lions is double that of male lions. In 2010, the male-female ratio was 97-162.

The number of lions has been showing a steady growth over the years, with their population rising from 359 in 2005 to 411 in 2010 and 523 in 2015.

The survey for the lions was conducted over 20000 sq km, covering the districts of Junagadh, Gir-Somnath, Devbhumi Dwarka, Bhavnagar and Amreli in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. This was the 14th lion census carried out to collate the exact population of lions on the region. 

The first lion census was carried out in 1936, when the area was a part of the princely state of Junagadh. It had then recorded the existence of 287 lions.

Junagadh has the highest lion population at 268. Amreli district has 174 lions roaming around and recorded the  highest increase in its lion population. Gir Somnath has 44 lions and Bhavnagar district has 37.


Asiatic lion population in Gujarat touches 523

Asiatic lion population in Gujarat touches 523
Live Mint

14th lion census shows number of lions rose 27% in last five years; population in protected area stable, say officials

Asiatic lion population in Gujarat touches 523
An eight-year-old asiatic lion looks on in his enclosure at the Kamla Nehru Zoological Gardens in Ahmedabad on 3 May 2015

Ahmedabad: The number of Asiatic lions in Gujarat, the last abode of the rare big cat, has risen 27% in the last five years, fresh data show.

According to the latest census figures released on Sunday, the western state now hosts 523 members of panthera leo persica, the lion sub-species now found only in Gujarat's Gir forest and surrounding areas. In 2010, when the last census was conducted, the figure was 411.

Calling the lion "a pride of Gujarat and the country" while releasing the census figures, chief minister Anandiben Patel said this was aptly represented in the logo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Make in Indiainitiative.

Lions are believed to have evolved in Europe and moved south as climate changed. African and Indian lions were separated about 55,000 years ago, evolving into two different sub-species. Having survived in parts of Iran, Iraq and India, lions became extinct in all its distribution ranges in the beginning of the 20th century, except the Gir forest.

The protected area of Asiatic lions is spread over 1,452 sq. km and includes five regions, including the Gir National Park, the Gir sanctuary, Matiyana and Paniya. The population rise has forced many lions to move out of the protected area.

While the census did not reveal the numbers in the protected area, two officials working closely with the state forest department said the lion population in that area has more or less stabilized. "In 2010, there were 306 lions in the PA (protected area). This would have gone up marginally to 310 or 312," said one of the two officials, on condition of anonymity.

Asiatic lions live in 22,000 sq. km across five districts in Gujarat.

The lion census figures follow India's tiger census in January, which showed a similar 30% jump in their numbers since 2010. A study by the University of Oxford, Indian Statistical Institute and the Wildlife Conservation Society, though, has said the method used in the tiger census may not have been accurate.

"Every year, from the last 40 years, the lion population has been increasing by about 2-3%. In comparison, the latest census shows the great efforts of the state government along with the local community in conserving this rare species," said Kaushik Banerjee, a research associate with the Wildlife Institute of India, who was involved in the latest census.

The increasing lion population poses the challenge of conserving lions outside protected areas in the middle of human populations, Banerjee said, adding that the rise in the population has been mainly in areas outside the protected area. A further increase could create man-animal conflicts, Banerjee cautioned. An adult lion needs food equivalent to about 35-36 buffaloes every year.

Asiatic lions are counted every five years. The next one will be in 2020. Since 1968, when 177 lions were counted, the figures have steadily grown.

Amreli district saw the greatest rise in the lion population with a current population of 174, the chief minister said, without providing comparative figures on previous censuses.

The rising lion population has created new challenges. There is a state government proposal pending with the centre to open a new lion reserve to take the pressure off Gir in Junagadh. This will be spread across 109 sq. km, at least 70km away from Gir. The identified area, apart from beinghome to some lions, also acts as a corridor for lions to travel along the banks of Shatrunj river to relatively newer territories near Bhavnagar and Amreli regions.

In the past, Barda Wildlife Sanctuary near Junagadh was identified as a second home for lions. The state government proposed early this year to notify 3,467 sq. km. as ecologically sensitive zone (ECZ) near Gir, barring any industrial development.

The average age of a lion in the wild is 13-14 years. "While there have been ups and downs in tiger population, for the past four decades, there has been a constant rise in the lion population in Gujarat. The survival rate of the Asiatic lion is about 35%, which is much more than the African lion where the chances of cubs crossing the age of two is only 23%," said H.S. Singh, member of National Board for Wildlife, which functions under the environment ministry.

"While Africa had about 200,000 lions about a century ago, they are down to 30,000 today. Whereas in Gujarat, the lions, which were on a brink of extinction, have become a successful conservation story today," said Sandeep Kumar, deputy conservator of forests, wildlife, Gir sanctuary.

For over 130 years, Asiatic lions have been restricted to the Gir and its surrounding areas. Rampant lion hunting brought their numbers down to a few dozens in the early 1980s. At the turn of the 20th century, the princely ruler of Junagadh banned hunting lions.

In 2000, the International Union for Conservation of Nature had added the Asiatic lion to the list of "critically endangered" species. However, in 2011, it was moved to the "endangered" category as its numbers steadily rose.

Epidemics killed a large number of lions at Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, such as in 1994, necessitating a second home for them. However, India's Gir has become a model of conservation, with constant patrols against poachers.

The lion is well-represented in Indian mythology, but the lion's seal was absent at the sites of Indus valley civilization, although plenty of seals of tigers, elephants and other animals were recovered.

A member of Parliament recently wrote a letter to the National Board of Wildlife to make the lion India's national animal. Prior to 1972, the lion was the national animal of India, before the status was awarded to the tiger.

According to the 14th Asiatic Lion Census 2015, conducted by wildlife experts last week, there are 109 adult lions and 201 adult lionesses along with 213 sub adults and cubs in India.



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