Saturday, September 30, 2017

India Playing a Leadership Role in Wildlife Management by Involving Local Communities: Dr. Harsh Vardhan India Hosts Global Wildlife Programme to Address Illegal Wildlife Trade

India Playing a Leadership Role in Wildlife Management by Involving Local Communities: Dr. Harsh Vardhan India Hosts Global Wildlife Programme to Address Illegal Wildlife TradeBusiness Standard

India Playing a Leadership Role in Wildlife Management by Involving Local Communities: Dr. Harsh Vardhan

India Hosts Global Wildlife Programme to Address Illegal Wildlife Trade

In an attempt to address illegal wildlife trade across 19 countries of Asia and Africa, India is hosting the Global Wildlife Programme (GWP) jointly with World Bank and United Nations Development Programme. Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr. Harsh Vardhan will inaugurate the Global Wildlife Programme on October 2. Briefing mediapersons on the Global Wildlife Programme here today, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that India is playing a leadership role in management of wildlife through involvement of local communities. Pointing out that no programme can succeed solely because of Government policies, the Minister said that peoples participation at societal level can ensure its success. Five crore people living around national parks and sanctuaries are working as partners in environment conservation", Dr. Harsh Vardhan said. The Minister pointed out that a 15-year National Wildlife Action Plan (2017-31), with a special focus on peoples participation will also be launched on October 2. He emphasised that the Conference will act as a platform for knowledge exchange and coordination on the action taken on the ground to combat illegal poaching of wildlife and improve governance on wildlife conservation. Dr. Harsh Vardhan underlined the fact that the number of rhinos, tigers and elephants is in fact, increasing.

The Minister said that till now programmes and plans related to wildlife were focused on and around national parks and sanctuaries. However, the strategy and programmes will now be based on the landscape of the region. He added that the impact of such issues as global warming, climate change and disaster management on the people living around wildlife areas and on the wildlife will also be discussed.

Coinciding with the Wildlife Week, the theme of the Conference is - Peoples participation in wildlife conservation". The meeting will bring about strengthened cooperation between India and the 18 GWP countries in better management of wildlife habitats and minimizing human-wildlife conflict situations. It will also enable India to strengthen its enforcement mechanism to control illicit trade.

The GWP will hold discussions on management of wildlife habitat, securing sustainable community livelihood, enhancing enforcement, monitoring, cooperation to reduce wildlife crimes such as poaching and related threats. The Conference will provide an opportunity for India to showcase its conservation efforts through joint forest management, vana sanrakshan samitis, eco-development committees in and around Protected Areas.

The proposed outcomes of New Delhi Conference include: Reiterating Mahatma Gandhi principles to the world, as the Conference coincides with Gandhi Jayanti and UN International Day of Non- Violence on October 2, 2017; Take leadership in Wildlife Conservation by showcasing Indias conservation models for Asiatic lion, single horn rhino, tiger and Asiatic elephants; Consolidating peoples participation for wildlife conservation"; Need to strongly address unaccounted black money generated through illegal wildlife trade at global market; Sensitise stakeholders like Governments, corporate, banks, public sectors, media, youth etc for investments in wildlife conservation and develop sustainable models for wildlife conservation thorough peoples participation in 19 GWP countries.

The meeting will host wildlife experts, leading practitioners across 19 GWP countries, government representatives from Indias forestry and conservation sectors, leading corporate associated with environmental and biodiversity conservation, civil society organisations and school children. The participating nations include Afghanistan, Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Philippines, Republic of Congo, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Vietnam, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In addition, representatives of World Bank, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) will also be present. Earlier, four similar Programmes had been convened at Gland (Switzerland), Hanoi (Vietnam), Nairobi (Kenya) and Liberville (Gabon). Led by the World Bank, the Global Wildlife Programme was initiated in 2015.

The prides of Gujarat

The prides of Gujarat

The lions that live outside the Gir forest are subsidised by people
The Asian lion may be 'mrigaraja', the 'king of deer', but it was the prey of royalty, who displayed their valour as lion-slayers. By the late 19th century, hunters had wiped out all signs of the tawny cat from the country, across northwestern India, east to Bihar, and as far south as the Narmada.

The hills of Kathiawar, a malarial outpost, saved its sorry roar. Even here it would have fallen had Lord Curzon not granted a reprieve in 1900. He turned down an invitation from the Nawab of Junagadh to take down a lion or few, out of concern that the species was on its last legs. Only then did the native ruler become aware of the species' distressing circumstances.

Pastoralists and agriculturalists poisoned their share of lions for taking their livestock. But one community wasn't too perturbed about the cats' taste for their livestock — the Maldharis. One of their deities, Kankeshwari, sported an ox in one hand and a lion in the other. Another was Bhavani, who rode a lion.

Starting an unabated climb

In 1920, Sir Patrick Cadell, the Diwan of Junagadh, counted 50 lions, and J.M. Ratnagar of the Bombay Forest Service said there were 100 left. The Indian government protected the 1,400 Gir forest, but the numbers wobbled up and down before beginning an upward climb that has not abated.

The white-clad Maldhari men herded their animals in the area and grew accustomed to being surrounded by prides of lions. Armed with stout staffs, they were said to knock any lion on the head if it came too close. Their vegetarian diet meant the lions could eat their kills in peace. In return, the cats didn't mess with the people, having eyes only for their cattle.

"This is not to be misinterpreted as a lack of 'wildness' in these lions," says Ravi Chellam, who studied lions in the 1990s.

"Make no mistake, these lions are more than capable of hunting sambhar, wild pigs, chital and a whole host of both wild and domestic prey species. My interpretation of this rather peaceable relationship between the lions and human beings is that over the years the lions have got used to human presence and it also helps that most people do not disturb the lions."

Despite the Maldharis laidback attitude towards the carnivores, biologists in the 1970s saw the tribals as the main threat to lions. Their cattle out-competed wild herbivores and degraded the forest, they said. About 580 households were relocated to make Gir National Park the sole preserve of lions.

While the cats flourished, the people who were made to leave became poorer, selling lands they didn't know how to till to work as wage labourers. In the adjoining wildlife sanctuary, a few hundred Maldharis continue to live with their animals.

In the mid 1980s, Gir brimmed with lions and young adults started colonising forests within a 20-kilometre radius. According to the 2015 census, 523 Asian lions live in four districts of Gujarat. As many as 40% of them roam outside forests, in crop and sugarcane fields and mango orchards, where lion numbers exploded by 130% in five years. To get a sense of just how rural these wild beasts have become, have a look at the numerous video clips on YouTube. They wander through a village, race across fields, try to cross a highway.

Despite the abundance of wild game in Gir, the lion population rose by less than 5%. The cats now occupy about 13,000, sheltering in Prosopis thickets along the southern coast and in little forested patches. Several of these patches are too tiny to entirely support even one lion.

In 2011, the Forest Department estimated the cats killed about 90 livestock a month. Meena Venkataraman, a researcher who studies lions, estimates cattle made up the entire diet of 45 lions since one lion has to kill a buffalo or two cows a month. Earlier this year, H.S. Singh, a retired forester, estimated lions took 3,400 heads of livestock. Of course, no lion eats only cattle.

Turning a blind eye

As much as 75% of these cats living outside Gir are subsidised by people. If they said they had had enough of the lions and refused to tolerate any further predation of their stock, what would become of the 200 lions living outside Gir? What makes these people turn a blind eye to the lions?

Many of the farming communities in these new lion territories don't have a cultural affinity for or history with lions as the Maldharis do. They could have demanded the forest department make their villages safer by removing all these predators. Instead, they learnt the value of having these predators around. Their bĂȘte noire isn't the lion as much as the nilgai or wild boar that eat their crops. If lions didn't keep their numbers in control, farming losses would be much more.

But to the cats, domestic meat tasted as good as wild game. Domestic animals are corralled in secure enclosures for the night, so the predators cannot get to them. The lions strike when the livestock return home in the evenings after grazing all day.

Occasionally, something flips a switch. In April-May 2016, lions killed three people in villages neighbouring Gir.

The forest department captured 17 and identified three it thinks are guilty of the crime. Since then calmness has prevailed.

The author is not a conservationista but many creatures share her home for reasons she is yet to discover. @JanakiLenin

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Gujarat: Lion pride ventures on coastal highway

Gujarat: Lion pride ventures on coastal highway

RAJKOT: A pride of at least seven Asiatic lions attracted several eyeballs as they leisurely crossed the coastal highway between Bhavnagar and Una in Amrelidistrict on Monday. Sources said that the pride was first seen by some locals resting on a hillock near Balani Vav village close to the coastal town of Rajula.

However, as it started raining, the lions gradually began shifting from the hillock towards the highway. The pride then crossed the highway and stayed put in an open ground for a long time. Forest department sources said during monsoon, lions often keep changing places to avoid mosquitoes and other insects.

However, this is not the first time that Asiatic lions have been spotted straying on the state highways, national highways or even the internal roads. Such spotting was rare few years ago.

With the lion population steadily rising, large numbers have ventured out of the Gir Sanctuary and reached up to the coastal areas of adjoining Amreli, Gir-Somnath and Bhavnagar districts. Satellite populations of these critically endangered species are seen sauntering around in the revenue areas, sometimes even venturing into the villages and preying on the domestic cattle.

According to the latest census, there are 523 lions spread over four districts. However, a recent internal lion count by the forest department in July revealed the the presence of nearly 650 lions in the reserved forests and even outside the national park in Amreli, Bhavnagar and Gir-Somnath districts.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

SC Pulls Up Centre Over Decision to Reduce Eco Sensitive Zones by 100 Times

SC Pulls Up Centre Over Decision to Reduce Eco Sensitive Zones by 100 Times

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has said that the Central government's decision on reduction of eco-sensitive zone from 10-kilometres to 100 metres looks like a 'prima facie arbitrary' decision, with the court deciding to examine the validity of the Centre's policy.

Eco-sensitive zones help in conserving wildlife, reduce man-animal conflict and improve socio-economic conditions of people around national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

In a statement having severe ramifications on residential and commercial projects across the country, the top court is questioning the government's move and while examining the validity, will specifically look into whether the Environment Ministry could have exercised such a power when pitted against environmental interest.

"Prima facie, it appears to us a completely arbitrary exercise of powers by the Ministry of Environment and Forest," said the top court in its stinging order.

On Friday, a bench led by Justice Madan B Lokur expressed surprise at the fact that the Central government, as a policy decision, has been approving proposals to reduce eco-sensitive zone from 10 km to 100 metres.

"It is extremely surprising that 10-km Eco-sensitive zone has been reduced by the Ministry of Environment and Forest to 100 meters."

"Since an order of this nature is capable of destroying national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the country, we would like to examine the validity of this reduction," ordered the Court.

The bench, which was hearing a case, relating to environmental clearance to an industrial unit, within a 10-km radius of Dadar and Nagar Haveli Wildlife Sanctuary, questioned the intent of the Central government in protecting the wildlife in the country.

"Do you want to destroy everything? Wildlife, river, everything (sic)? You will have to explain how and why you did this and how do you propose to protect the environment now? Has the concept of 'protected areas' become irrelevant now?" the bench asked Additional Solicitor General ANS Nadkarni.

The Court tagged this case with a clutch of cases relating to environmental protection and is likely to take this up after four weeks.

The Central government had its own standard guidelines of having 10-km as eco-fragile zones around a protected area under the Wildlife Conservation Strategy 2002, which was later endorsed by the Supreme Court. The Court had directed that a 10-km limit was to be treated as the eco-sensitive zone until there is a notification by the Centre.

However, in the last two years, by a series of notifications, the Environment Ministry approved a reduction of eco-sensitive zone for a number of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

A reduction in eco-sensitive zone by the Ministry had rendered 59,400 apartments in Noida legal, which came within the 10-km radius of Okhla Bird Sanctuary.

A similar exercise is underway around Gir Forest in Gujarat and certain protected areas in Karnataka.

Environmentalists and wildlife activists alike have opposed this reduction, stating that the policy change will enable private parties to operate resorts adjacent to sanctuaries with ease, while allowing several other residential projects too.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Agitation to seek removal of Gir buffer zone

Agitation to seek removal of Gir buffer zone

Ahmedabad: The Jan Adhikhar Manch has decided to launch a state-wide campaign to press for their demand to remove the eco-sensitive zone restrictions for areas around Sasan Gir, increase in remuneration for Asha workers and minimum support price for various crops.

Speaking to reporters, Pravin Nakum, office bearer of the manch, said Pravin Ram and other Asha workers have been agitating in Talala for the last 30 days and the government has not sent any representative or made any efforts to hear their issues.

The organization has decided now to launch an agitation across the state. In the first phase it will give memorandum to the government to press for their demand, and if they fail to give a satisfactory reply, the manch will give launch an agitation on the ground, Nakum said.

He said the manch already had its organization set up in 2,000 villages. It has decided that if the government failed to solve the issues, then it will ask its supporters to vote against BJP in the 2017 assembly elections.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Gujarat government allows 50 devotees to stay overnight at Gir temple


Gujarat government allows 50 devotees to stay overnight at Gir temple



AHMEDABAD: Through a notification, the state government has allowed 50 devotees to stay overnight at the Kankai Mataji templewithin the Gir sanctuary , the only abode in the world of the Asiatic Lion. The decision has raised the hackles of wildlife activists and even the members of the State Board for Wildlife, who say that the move will be detrimental to conservation of lions.


In 1998-99, a similar attempt was made to permit tourists to stay overnight at the temple. However, the permission was cancelled following the intervention of the standing committee on science and technology , environment and forests of the Rajya Sabha. Principal chief conservator of forests G K Sinha said: "The government had on Tuesday issued a notification making corrections in the earlier government resolution. The earlier GR had stated that the trustees of the temple and devotees should be permitted to stay within the sanctuary." Sinha said that the government on Tuesday defined `devotees'. "Accor ding to Tuesday's GR, devotees would be those whose family deity is Kankai Mata or those who want to perform a pooja -they can stay over," Sinha said. "Ho wever, the number of such devotees should not exceed 50."


A senior officer of the forest department said that till now, apart from the trustees, no one -not even their family members -had been allowed to stay . In the absence of clarity about who constitutes `devotees', the deputy conservator of forests denied permissions. The officer said now that the government has allowed 50 devotees to stay , officials would be forced to issue permissions. He said that in the new circumstances, anyone can get a letter from trustees under the pretext of performing a pooja and stay overnight at the temple. He said that poachers or unwanted elements could also possibly infiltrate into the sanctuary . He sa id that since there was no regular pooja in the night, there was no need for people to stay over.


Contradicting forest officials, fo rest minister Gan pat Vasava said: "Over 300 devote es used to stay overnight. The government, in order to conserve the lions, has reduced the number." Bhushan Pandya, a member of the State Board for Wildlife, said: "The real pilgrim is ignored and tourism takes the front seat. In 1998, in similar circumstances, the government had to withdraw." The decision of the government to allow the night stay will be bad for conservation as any person can stay as a tourist in the forest area, Pandya said.


Priyvrat Gadhvi, another member of the board, said: "This will have a directly detrimental effect on the surrounding forest and will set a bad precedent."


Gadhvi said limiting people to a particular number would be practically impossible. "The overall cascading impact on conservation of lions would be adverse," he said. "I will definitely raise the issue in the next board meeting." Wildlife activists have begun an online campaign to force the government to reverse its decision.


Devotees can use either gate now


The forest department, which had so far made it mandatory for devotees visiting the Kankai temple to exit from the same gate, has relaxed this norm and they can now leave from either gate. Ganpat Vasava, the forest minister, said the department has stated that there are two gates in use, one is 17km from the temple and the other is 13km away. The department clarified that devotees will have to leave from either gate. Experts feel that with the option to use either gate, devotees will in effect travel through the entire sanctuary area.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017


I am sending this short letter to request your partnership to help me receive $ 6.2 million for a charitable project. Please forward all communication to for more information

Best regards
Mr Johnson Shan

Monday, September 04, 2017

Attend a lecture on the crisis of Asiatic lion at NCPA this evening


Attend a lecture on the crisis of Asiatic lion at NCPA this evening



When it comes to the narrative of saving the big cats, the focus has remained largely on tigers, and justifiably so, given their dwindling numbers. But on the IUCN Red List, both, the Royal Bengal tiger and Asiatic lion feature in the endangered category. While there are 2,500 Bengal tigers left in the world, the number for the latter, according to a latest report, is about 650.


The animal, which has been a symbol of strength since the time Emperor Ashoka built his Lion Capital in Sarnath, now stands on the verge of extinction. What brought this subspecies to this stage? The fourth Vimal Shah Memorial Lecture, organised by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in collaboration with The Museum Society of Mumbai, explores such critical questions. Titled Asia's Lions in the Past and the Present, the talk by Dr Divyabhanusinh Chavda will highlight the reasons for their dwindling numbers, the current status and future.


Author of the book, The Story of Asia's Lions, Dr Chavda, apart from holding other distinctions, is former president of World Wide Fund for Nature India and member of the National Board for Wildlife.

Read on for a few interesting facts:

> Asiatic lions roamed from Palestine in the West to Palamau in India in the East. Today, they have been exterminated from almost the entire continent, and can be found only in the Saurashtra peninsula.


> According to estimates, at the beginning of the 20th century, the lion population had come down to about 100, due to royal hunting expeditions common in those days.


> Conservation efforts began during the time of the British (but it depended on the predisposition of the official in charge), and strengthened after India achieved freedom.


> In 1963, five commemorative stamps featuring the Asiatic lion, gaur (Indian bison), Himalayan panda, Bengal tiger and Indian elephant were released under the Wildlife Preservation series.


> The population has increased — it was 523 in 2015 and is over 650 today. This increase in number — with no corresponding increase in the size of the habitat — means that more than half the lions are roaming in spaces that are far away from the Gir forest.


> This increases the possibility of lion-human encounters, which puts the animal at further risk.


> Scope needs to be expanded to protecting the corridors. Simultaneously, areas beyond Gir, where the lions have settled in significant numbers must be turned into safe havens.

On Today, 6 pm
At Auditorium, Visitors Centre, CSMVS, Fort.
Call 22844484


Watch Bastion of the Giants, a 2015 documentary by Sumesh Lekhi that takes you into the dense forests of West Bengal and tall grasses of Assam to discover the lives of the Asian elephant. The film also highlights the need to conserve the pachyderm in the time of increasing man-animal conflict and climate change. The screening is in collaboration with Indian Documentary Producers' Association.
On Today, 6.30 pm
At Little Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point.
Call 66223737

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Cat fights


Cat fights

The Indian EXPRESS


Madhya Pradesh has waited for nearly two decades for lions to roar at the Kuno-Palpur National Park. In the 1990s, wildlife experts felt that confining the Asiatic Lion to the Gir National Park in Gujarat was not a good idea. The Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, carried out surveys to find a second home for the beast and recommended shifting some of the felines to Kuno. But the Gujarat government has termed the big cat as the "pride" of the state, and refused to share them with MP. An exasperated MP government has now decided to breed lion cubs in zoos and shift them to Kuno.


Till the late 19th century, the Asiatic lion roamed large parts of North India, as far east as what is today Bihar, with the Narmada river marking the southern limit of its range. But indiscriminate hunting and large-scale conversion of forests into farms and human-settlements proved to be the animal's doom. By the early 20th century, the deciduous forests of Gir were the Asiatic lion's only home. In 1913, the chief forest officer of Junagadh reported that there were only 20 of the majestic animals left in Gir. Since then, conservation efforts have not only saved the animal from extinction but resulted in a significant increase in their population. At the last census in 2015, the lions in Gir numbered 523.


Wildlife experts, however, believe that a disease outbreak or a natural disaster like a forest fire in the animal's only home could undo the conservation achievements of the past 100 years. However, Gujarat does not want to part with its lions. Conservation has taken a further backseat with the MP government's proposal to the Centre to allow Kuno to source cubs from zoos. The lion cubs will have to compete with other predators hardened with the ways of the forest. It is anybody's guess how they will fare.


As Gujarat herds its big cats, MP looks for zoo lions The Indian EXPRESS


As Gujarat herds its big cats, MP looks for zoo lions

The Indian EXPRESS

Gujarat's refusal to part with its Gir lions despite court orders has forced Madhya Pradesh to propose an alternative: source cubs and lions from zoos across the country for translocation to Kuno Palpur in Sheopur district. For more than two decades, the Gujarat government has scuttled the translocation conceived in the 1990s by the Central government, at the instance of the Wildlife Institute of India, to create a second home for Asiatic lions outside Gir.


In 2014, the Supreme Court threw out a curative petition by the Gujarat government, the last legal recourse available before it to stall the translocation, but the state has managed to avoid shifting, citing absence of one study or the other. The BJP government in Madhya Pradesh too hasn't shown much keenness in pushing for execution of the project.


Calling the new idea 'Plan B', Madhya Pradesh Chief Wildlife Warden Jitendra Agrawal told The Indian Express that a proposal has been sent to the Centre to allow the state to source cubs and lions from zoos. "It's a long-drawn process that will begin only after the Centre and experts give the go-ahead after recommending some studies," he said.


In May, Agrawal wrote to the state government, saying, "Despite an order from the Supreme Court and six meetings of the expert committee set up for the purpose, the chances of translocation of Asiatic lions are very dim in the near future."


He further wrote that cubs born in Indore zoo could be shifted to Kuno Palpur and kept in an enclosure with the permission of the Central Zoo Authority. This can be followed by sourcing cubs and lions from other zoos and a family could be established in Kuno Palpur, he added.

In the communication to the Centre, Madhya Pradesh cited its experience in releasing orphaned hand-reared tiger cubs in the wild, to bolster its case for shifting lions. In the past, Madhya Pradesh has shifted orphaned tiger cubs to other parks and trained them to hunt by developing their wild instincts gradually. "In the 1990s, we did not have such expertise, which we now have," Agrawal said.


But experts and activists are not sure of the Madhya Pradesh plan, and point out that it defeats the very purpose of the project, which was to ensure longevity of the Gir lions. "It's difficult to relocate zoo-bred lions in the wild. I don't think there is any precedent. It's in the best interest of Asiatic lions to have an alternative population outside Gir," noted wildlife conservationist Belinda Wright pointed out.


She also said that relocation of tiger cubs and zoo-bred lion cubs couldn't be compared. "They were born to mothers in the wild and reared in virtual isolation. Their genes were pure, unlike those of zoo-bred animals."


Wildlife activist Ajay Dubey slammed the MP government for "surrendering" before Gujarat and showing no political will to even get a judicial order executed. "Gujarat has no legal option left and yet it's delaying translocation. Even lions in Gir are vulnerable due to in-breeding. Getting zoo lions will defeat the very purpose of the project," he said. He also pointed out that hundreds of crores have been spent on creating infrastructure at Kuno Palpur, in relocating villagers outside the reserve, and in research and vaccination.

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