Friday, April 30, 2010

ROARING NUMBERS Gujarat’s pride: Lion count touches 405

30-04-2010
ROARING NUMBERS Gujarat's pride: Lion count touches 405
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1272623689500

Gujarat, the last abode of the Asiatic lion, has added some more to the big cat pride. Forest officials involved in the lion census in Gir and surrounding areas said an increase of 12-15% has been recorded in the number of lions compared to the 2005 census which had put the count at 359.

"We are putting the number at around 405," said a source. The final count would be declared by senior officials who would take a call on Friday morning before the data is submitted to Chief Minister Narendra Modi by 4 pm.

Sources further said there was much hue and cry over the large number of lions moving out in the fringe areas of Gir. However, according to officials, the count in Gir forest was around 290 lions while another 25-odd lions were spotted in the Girnar and Mityala sanctuaries.

Officials said the three sanctuaries put together would account for around 315 lions, while the remaining were in Khamba, Mahuva, Palitana and parts of Amreli district.
A senior forest official said this was exactly the figure which was derived at during the nine-month exercise which began before the census. Officials said that of the 90-odd lions which venture out of the Gir sanctuary, about 25 are in Mahuva, while another 30 are in Khamba. Interestingly, not a single lion was sighted in the coastal belt from Veraval to Mangrol.

The four-day census exercise, which began on April 24, covered a large area spread over 10,000 sq km. No less than 1,300 forest officials and volunteers were deployed for the exercise using global positioning system and digital photography.

Officials said photographs taken by volunteers had helped forest officials cut down on the time taken previously to complete the census. "We have been able to arrive at the final count in less than 72 hours of the completion of census," said a senior official.

Two leopards caught from Veraval, Rajula

30-04-2010
Two leopards caught from Veraval, Rajula
Times of India
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1272623689500

Forest department caged two leopards from Veraval in Junagadh and Rajula in Amreli in past 48 hours. One of the big cats died of heat. The big cat that died was a female caught in Savani village near Veraval on Wednesday morning. "The leopard used to prey upon village cattle and had been thwarting our attempts of caging her. As a last-ditch effort, we had set up a cage with a live goat as bait inside it in an orchard. Attracted by constant bleating of the goat, the leopard got inside the cage at 5am and was trapped," said Jokhia, in-charge range forest officer of Veraval.

However, the leopard appeared seriously ill and after spending a few hours in the cage it died. Preliminary investigation of the forest department attributed heat wave as the cause of the death. The big cat's body was sent to veterinary hospital in Sasan Gir for postmortem to ascertain the exact cause of death.

The deceased leopard appeared about three years old, five feet long and two feet high. Meanwhile in Rajula, a male leopard was found caged on Tuesday morning. The leopard had killed four goats and an equal number of dogs on the outskirts of Rajula and Jhampadar village in the past 10 days.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Local pride leaves India's lions at risk

29-04-2010
Local pride leaves India's lions at risk
Times Online
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article7110999.ece

It was a tawdry end for a beast whose ancestors tore Christians apart in Roman arenas, harried the armies of Alexander the Great, and spared Daniel in their Biblical den.

They found the lion crumpled on the banks of the Hiran River, its head crushed, mane matted in blood, and one front leg broken by the fatal fall from the bridge 60ft above.

The five-year-old male had been either hit by a car the night before or scared by one into jumping from the bridge.

"We closed our shops that day – no one did any business out of respect," said Nitin Ratangayra, 30, the manager of a roadside restaurant nearby.

"The lions are very important to us."

To lose an endangered animal like this would be a tragedy anywhere, but the loss here was all the more painful as this was an Asiatic lion – rarer even than the tiger, with just 359 left in the wild.

This lesser-known cousin of the African lion once roamed from the Danube to the Ganges, but today lives only around the 617 square mile Gir sanctuary in Gujarat.

So wildlife experts were appalled last month when Gujarat's Government revealed that 72 lions – 20 percent of the population – had died in the past two years, including the one under the bridge, and three which fell into wells.

Earlier this month, another lion was hacked to death by farmers.

Local officials say the death toll is normal, insisting a five-yearly census completed this week will show that enough cubs have been born to increase the overall population to 400.

But their announcement has inflamed a 15-year dispute – which the Supreme Court is due to rule on next month – over whether to move some lions to the neighbouring state of Madhya Pradesh.

On one side are the central and MP governments, backed by wildlife experts, who say the lions have outgrown Gir and could be wiped out by an epidemic unless they are split up.

On the other is Gujarat's Government, led by Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, who says the lions belong to his state, and would be worse off anywhere else.

"It's become an emotional and political issue, but the future of the Asiatic lion should not be decided by emotions or politics," said Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

"This is one of the most important mammals on this planet, and it's our duty to do everything in our power to secure its future."

The issue is sensitive as the Asiatic lion adorns India's national emblem – based on a sculpture erected under Emperor Ashoka in 250BC – and was its national animal until it was replaced by the tiger in 1973.

It also inspired India's earliest conservation project, having been hunted almost to extinction by 1900, when there were estimated to be just 20 left.

That year, the Nawab of Junagadh invited Lord Curzon, the Viceroy, to a lion hunt in Gir, but cancelled it after a local newspaper protested that the animal was almost extinct.

"Fortunately I found out my mistake in time, and was able to adopt a restraint, which I hope that others will follow," Lord Curzon wrote in a letter to the Burma Game Preservation Association in 1901.

Soon afterwards, the Nawab banned lion-hunting. Indian conservationists took up the cause after independence in 1947, and Gir was declared a sanctuary in 1965.

As a result, the lion population has grown steadily from 177 in 1968, when the first scientific survey was done, to 359 at the last census in 2005.

In the early 1990s, however, Indian wildlife officials began to worry that Gir was too small.

Their concern intensified after an outbreak of canine distemper killed more than 1,000 lions in the Serengeti park in Tanzania in 1994.

"It's clearly a case of not keeping your eggs in one basket," said Ravi Chellam, who spearheaded the Wildlife Institute of India's search for a second sanctuary.

In 1995, the central government decided to move a handful of lions to the 133 square mile Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh by 2001.

It spent 150 million rupees (£2 million) relocating 1,500 families from Kuno and boosting its supply of deer and other prey.

Since the late 1990s, however, Gujarat has refused to give up any of its lions, which attract 100,000 visitors a year, generating millions of pounds for the local economy.

"Lions are the pride of Gujarat," Mr Modi declared in November.

A rising star in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he came to power in Gujarat in 2001, the year before deadly anti-Muslim riots broke out in the state.

So the impasse over the lions only deepened when the Congress Party – which had been fiercely critical of Mr Modi – defeated the BJP in a national election in 2004.

In 2008 the dispute finally reached the Supreme Court when a non-governmental organisation called the Biodiversity Conservation Trust of India filed a lawsuit to force Gujarat to co-operate.

"Public money is being wasted, conservation efforts are being frustrated and a species is being endangered," said Ritwick Dutta, a Supreme Court lawyer acting for the trust.

"If they can lose 72 in two years, then they can spare four or five for Kuno."

He said that the lions are at risk not just from disease but from poaching, citing a case in 2007 in which eight were killed and stripped of their bones.

Experts say the lions are also increasingly threatened by roads, electric fences, and an estimated 20,000 unprotected wells in the area.

"As the human population grows, there's only going to be more conflict with the lions, and greater risk of inbreeding," said Betsy Dresser, an American expert on endangered species who visited Gir in 2007.

Not so, argues Pradeep Khanna, Gujarat's Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Wildlife.

"I don't see any reason to move then," he said. "A death rate of 10 per cent a year is normal."

He added that the sanctuary had grown by 85 square miles since 1965, and been divided into four parts to avert an epidemic.

Local authorities had covered 13,500 unprotected wells since 2007, and added 100 guards to protect against poachers.

They would soon have enough genes from orphaned cubs taken into captivity to re-generate the entire population if necessary, he said.

Sandeep Kumar, the Deputy Conservator of Forests in Gir, estimates that 80 to 90 healthy cubs were born in the last two years alone.

"There are no symptoms of inbreeding," he said.

Gujarat's strongest argument against the plan, however, is that the central and Madhya Pradesh governments have yet to complete preparations at Kuno, and have dismal records on protecting the tiger.

India had 40,000 tigers a century ago, but that number had fallen to 1,411 in 2008, compared with 3,642 in 2002 – largely due to poaching.

Last year Madhya Pradesh admitted there were no tigers left in its Panna reserve.

This week India's Environment Ministry said it was phasing out tourism in and around tiger reserves because it had damaged their habitat so much.

"Do we want to sacrifice the lions too?" Mr Khanna said.

He said Gujarat would comply with the Supreme Court's ruling, but many wildlife experts fear the court will either delay the decision, or make an ambiguous ruling that will allow the state to stall for many more years.

"Court cases in India can be dragged on indefinitely," said Ms Wright, head of the Wildlife Protection Society of India. "I don't think either side is going to give up on this."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

‘Photography helped eliminate duplication’

28-04-2010
'Photography helped eliminate duplication'
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1272450081843

It was true night safari inside Gir. Census 2010 of the rare Asiatic lions at Gir sanctuary has proved to be a once-in-alifetime experience for many. Kishore Kotecha, a volunteer who was part of the expedition in the photographer category, recalls his experience during the census.

Thanks to volunteers like Kotecha, lion census may have changed for good. Photographs clicked by Kotecha proved critical in the lion census. This helped the forest officials ensure that one lion was not counted twice. Kotecha recounts that on Monday midnight, they got a wireless message about a lion being spotted. They rushed the spot.

"It was a full moon night and we saw a lion squatting. A range forest officer pulled out his Glopal Positioning System (GPS) and noted the exact location. I was asked to take the photograph. We were just 50 ft away from the lion and it was dark and hence I had to use flash. The lion seemed nonchalant. This encouraged me and then without disturbing the aminal I clicked several pictures," said Kotecha.

Deputy conservator of forest Aradhana Sahu was then informed of the spotting. Kotecha further said that this continued throughout the night and in the morning again they got the location of a lion. Again photos were clicked and while comparing these pictures, it became clear that the lion clicked in the night was the same as the one found in the morning. Immediately, the count which they were estimating to be six was scaled down to five for their sub zone.

Kotecha said the officials were aware of the count in their territory. Hence when the tracking team failed to trace a lioness with four cubs, DCF Sahu immediately asked the team to locate it and finally it was done. He said the officials specially near Gir sanctuary kept motivating the staff and were on the move throughout the night.


Kishore Kotecha with a team member during the census in Girnar range

Forest dept officials move in AC cars to count lions

28-04-2010
Forest dept officials move in AC cars to count lions
Times of India
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1272450081843

No less than 70 air-conditioned cars have been hired by the forest department for the officials during the fourday census which concluded on Tuesday.

Sources in the department said that the forest department was estimating an expenditure of 25 lakh for the census. Sources said that during census the officials especially the senior officers used these cars while travelling. Not only that, some officials in the forest department were also seen travelling in cars with their families. A volunteer also said that the choice of the volunteer was also to be questioned as those selected were not associated with the field.

However, a senior officer said that these cars were hired in the name of the sub-zonal team which were to travel from one beat to another clicking photographs and recording the location of the lions on the GPS. He said that since these teams were to move around quickly they needed cars. However, these teams were given jeeps while the cars were being kept at the services of the officials.

He said that the local villagers should have been given preference than as they were aware of the movement of the animal in their respective areas. A officer refusing to be quoted said that several of the volunteers instead of helping the officials were seen standing and watching lions. Officials said that there was no screening of volunteers. It is worthy recalling that the volunteers even complained of families attending the census.

Officials said that the mismanagement part was more in the revenue area where even friends were taken in the teams. A local journalist from Amreli said that he had visited the census not officially but illegally with few of his friends who were volunteering for the census.

Lion census becomes picnic for senior foresters’ families

28-04-2010
Lion census becomes picnic for senior foresters' families
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1272450081843

Loud cheers resounded in a portion of Gir sanctuary as children started clicking photographs. This was when a pride of lions was spotted during the ongoing census. You might wonder as to what were children doing at the spot. Well, the lion census has actually become a holiday of sorts for the families of senior forest officials, who have descended upon the jungle to witness the mega-exercise to count the lions.

Intriguingly, media has been kept out of the exercise citing reasons like overcrowding and disturbance that may adversely affect the counting exercise.

A volunteer, who was in the sanctuary, refusing to be identified, said that during the census the usual practice was to ban the entry of outsiders, but this time it has been observed that several officials has come to the sanctuary with their families.

Citing an example he said that a senior forest officer posted in Gandhinagar, who was a part of the census did not find a room to stay. This officer had to sit in the waiting lodge for long before he found a room for himself. Even the room he got was a run-down one.
The volunteer said that several rooms at official Gir lodge were already grabbed by other forest officials for their families. Another volunteer said that several volunteers who returned after the first round of counting did not find any place to stay or even take a bath.

He said that he had to go to the residence of a beat guard and take bath. At Sasan there was no facility for food or even drinking water, he said adding that the junior officials were seen taking care of the families of their seniors present at there.

The volunteer said that several of them could not manage even a place to attend nature's call. During the meeting the officials has issued instructions to the volunteers not to talk to the media citing directives from Wildlife Institute of India and the Centre.

The officials, when the media sought permission, had said that there were instruction not to involve media as it would hamper the census. He said that to avoid interference the entire mock drill of census was conducted in advance for the media. Surprisingly, the officers' families seem to be proving no hindrance.

Fund crunch blocks move to shift Maldharis from Gir sanctuary

28-04-2010
Fund crunch blocks move to shift Maldharis from Gir sanctuary
DNA By Jumana Shah
http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_fund-crunch-blocks-move-to-shift-maldharis-from-gir-sanctuary_1376506

It will be a good few years before the Asiatic Lions are able to enjoy complete privacy in their abode in the Gir sanctuary in Junagadh.

The 376 Maldhari families currently living in the sanctuary area with their livestock will continue to stay there till the state government receives funds from the Centre to facilitate their relocation.

Recently, a grant of Rs50 crore was approved by Union ministry for environment and forest for Gujarat for the purpose of lion conservation.

This, however, is a fraction of the Rs236 crore sought by the state for several conservation projects.

Principal Chief Conservator of forests Pradip Khanna said plans to be funded by the grant had already been prepared.

The task of relocating the maldhari families will take more than the sanctioned amount, he added.

"We will take up other projects such as eco-development, gene pool project, etc," Khanna said. "Relocation of Maldharis will not happen for now."

The presence of Maldharis is believed to have detrimental effect on the lions, driving them out of the sanctuary area. The department estimates that the cost of rehabilitating one Maldhari family would come to at least Rs10 lakh.

"The crucial part is to get all of them to agree to be relocated," said a former forest official from the region. "And if they agree and are given land outside the sanctuary, then it has to be ensured that they do not leave the land allotted to them and return to the forest, as has happened in the past."

The recently released CAG report highlights similar irregularities in the relocation of Maldharis.

The report states that, between 1972 and 78, 588 families were shifted out of the Gir protected area.

Each family was given eight acres of cultivable and grazing land, 600 sq meters of residential plot and Rs 6050. A total of 257 families were not shifted.

But of the 588 families that were relocated, 87 returned to the forests and reside with authorization in the protected area.

According to the CAG report, the forest department had said that a scheme for the rehabilitation of Maldharis had been approved and would be implemented on availability of funds from the Centre.

But adequate steps to prevent relocated Maldhari families from returning to the protected area were not taken, the CAG report says.

"Consequently, the expenditure that was incurred on their earlier relocation towards farm lands, housing plots and cash, proved to be infructuous," the report has commented.

Lion census in Gir concludes

28-04-2010
Lion census in Gir concludes
Press Trust of India
http://www.ptinews.com/news/628967_Lion-census-in-Gir-concludes

The four-day census of Asiatic Lions in Gir forest concluded today and the result is likely to be declared in a few days, a senior forest official said today.

"The data has been collected in the last four days (April 24-27). Now it would be analysed by experts...The results are likely to be declared by April 29 or 30," Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Pradeep Khanna told reporters here.

Nearly 1,600 officials were deputed for the head count of lions in Gir forests, the only adobe of Asiatic lions.

As many as 359 lions were recorded in the Gir forests in the 2005 census.

During the last five years, over hundred lions have died.

While some of them died due to natural reasons, some were killed in infighting while others succumbed to diseases, officials said.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lion census: Number may touch 400

26-04-2010
Lion census: Number may touch 400
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1272255964187

Many Sightings In First Round Have Fuelled Expectations

It was 1 am, the beat guard inside the sanctuary heard a lion's roar. The big cat was near by. A nocturnal search was launched, which ended in sweet success. The team traced two lionesses with a cub.

This is not an isolated incident. There were several sightings of lions within the sanctuary and even outside, which has made the experts believe that the count could well touch 400. The first round of the lion census ended at 2 pm on Sunday. According to the forests department officials, the count as compared to 2005 census would record an increase of about 10-15 per cent. The previous census in 2005 had reported 359 lions in Gir.

Refusing to be identified, a census volunteer said, "I was on the job from 2 pm on Saturday when we first spotted two lionesses and a cub in Talala region. The cub was about three months old. The lioness had some injury marks on the left side of the neck. This was noted down by us and photographs from different angles were taken. Also the forests officials marked the location using global positioning system."

The sighting of the lioness with its cub added to the enthusiasm of the forest officials, who are all geared up for the final count beginning 2 pm on Monday. The four-day census began on Saturday. The count has been taken up at 450 different locations across Porbander, Bhavnagar, Amreli, Junagadh and a portion of Rajkot.

The foresters said that there possibilities were that the count could be anywhere between 280-290 in Gir sanctuary and another 30 lions could be present in Mityala and Girnar sanctuaries. Sources said that going by the sightings outside sanctuary, it was clear that the number may be anywhere between 90-110 in the far reaches of Amreli, Porbander and even Bhavnagar. In Mahuva region alone the count was 15-17, said the officials. In Khambha alone 30 odd lions were spotted.

Principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) R Asari said that the first round concluded without any hiccups. "Trends would be available by April 28 or April 29. The final count would be ready by April 30," he said. All eyes are trained on the 2010 census for two reasons: This is the first census which covers an area of about 8,000-10,000 sq km. Also this is the first official count after the 2007 poaching incident.

Forest Dept expects rise in Gir lion population

26-04-2010
Forest Dept expects rise in Gir lion population

Press Trust of India

http://www.ptinews.com/news/626764_Forest-Dept-expects-rise-in-Gir-lion-population

Lion population in Gir Sanctuary is expected to increase in the ongoing lion census being conducted by Gujarat State Forest Department.

Nearly 1,600 officials have involved in the process since April 24 in Gir Sanctuary which has been divided into various categories for perfect headcount, official sources said.

The preliminary round of lion census has got over and the Department is expecting that the number would be higher than the last census in 2004-05.

Officials are busy in the final round of the headcount which will be concluded in the next two days, sources said.

In the 2004-05 lions census in Gir, the number was recorded at 359.

The census had revealed that some lions were killed by poachers, while some died naturally. Infighting and succumbing after falling down in open wells were also attributed to decline in lion population.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

He forced govt to take notice of 56 illegal mines around Gir

25-04-2010
He forced govt to take notice of 56 illegal mines around Gir
Times of India By Vijaysinh Parmar
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1272172467984

The Asiatic lion census in Gir began on Saturday only to reaffirm the fact that lions enjoy a respectable stay in the state and need no other sanctuary anywhere in the country. But one would have to share this pride with Bhanu Odedara, a Porbandar resident who through his RTI applications forced the government to take notice of the 56 illegal mines surrounding the Gir sanctuary that were proving dangerous for the lions.

"Blasting in mining activity is a m a j o r threat to w i l d l i f e and has har mful effects. When we talk of s av i n g our lions — this should be the first step towards that cause — providing a conducive environment for our wildlife," says Odedara.

Last year, Odedara's RTI brought out the issue of illegal mining activities within the 5 km periphery of Barda Wi l d l i f e Sanctuary. "Twenty-one permissions for mining around the forest area had been g r a n t e d since 2002 by state geological department, many of which were given without a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the state forest department. According to the Wildlife Protection Act (1972), mining is not permissible in the 5 km periphery of the sanctuary,'' says Odedara.

Forest officials were forced to admit that mining was going on in villages of Kodinar and Una taluka of Junagadh district. The villages include Ghantvad, Harmadiya, Valadar, Pinchhava in Kodinar taluka and Jamwala, Kansariya in Una taluka of Junagadh district.
"Forest officials said that they have issued showcause notices to the mine operators in the area. But, they should take harsh actions against the illegal mine operators," says Odedara. He is now following up on the issue through filing RTI application.

In February 2010, office of the assistant conservator of forests, Talala (Gir) range had assured Odedara officially that the details of mines that are live within the 5 km periphery of Gir sanctuary were being sought. A detailed report is now being prepared on the action taken by the forest department to stop illegal mining activities." Fo re s t officials said that there are 56 s u ch mines active in Talala range area within the 5 km periphery of Gir sanctuary," says Odedara.


Bhanu Odedara

Lion census starts, king is doing fine

25-04-2010
Lion census starts, king is doing fine
Times of India
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1272172467984

The first round of the lion census, which began at 2 pm on Saturday, has fetched good initial reports. By 7 pm several teams had already spotted groups of lion with newborn cubs.

A team that was moving in the coastal areas, however, said that they could not spot any group from Veraval to Mangrol. There were earlier reports of sighting in these areas but according to the team members, there were no sightings for five hours beginning from 2 pm.

The team members said that the villagers had also told them there was no sighting in the past couple of months.

However, the reports from the Gir sanctuary, Babra Virdi, Bhavnagar and Palitana suggested encouraging results. A team in Bhavnagar said that the area had seen good populations. The team member said that earlier the count was 17 only in Mahuva and this was expected to go up 21.

A team member said that the arrangements were good and there was proper coordination so far between the officials and the ground staff. The officials said that those in the Gir jungle were moving on bikes and those in the interior were moving on foot.

He said that in the night they would be sitting at one spots for some time and would be constantly in touch with the villagers and would be moving, keeping ears focused to catch roar of the animal.

The team member said that this was the official census, but the department already has the numbers with them. The exercise was on for the last eight months. However, with experts from the Union forests ministry and researchers getting involved, this exercise was important and essential too. The team members said that they had been instructed to take the count of other animals which are spotted in their respective beats. However, officials who were involved in the exercise said the reports from the forest were good and there were several sighting of a group of six to eight lions and that too with small cubs.
The member, however, said that the officials were in dilemma over giving out the number of the cubs as the survival rate was just 50 per cent.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

GOLDEN REIGN OF LION KING!

24-04-2010
GOLDEN REIGN OF LION KING!
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1272093422703

Lion Census Begins Today, Results May Be Out On Gujarat's Golden Jubilee

Gujarat will start counting the number of lions in the wild on Saturday. And, from all accounts, the results of the census, which will take about a week to tabulate, will bring cheer to Gujarat on its Golden Jubilee.

This census is important as some rare poaching incidents have been reported since the last census five years ago, involving gangs from Madhya Pradesh which wants to rob Gujarat of the tag of being the only place where Asiatic lions roam free.

Almost 10,000 sq km will be combed by over 1,600 officials and volunteers in this once-in-five-year exercise. The last census conducted in 2005 had revealed a lion population of 359. The 2010 census covers a much wider area spread in five Saurashtra districts of Bhavnagar, Junagadh, Amreli, Porbandar and Rajkot.

On Friday, volunteers were issued identity cards and they were introduced to their other beat members. They will fan out at about 2 pm on Saturday and return only after 24 hours. Volunteers will take rest for 24 hours and get back to the count on Monday at about 2 pm only to return on Tuesday afternoon.

The officials also instructed the teams about the angles at which the photographs have to be taken. There would be five members in a team and each team is armed with a camera and a GPS. Keeping in view the scorching heat that enumerators will have to encounter during the lion census, the forest department is taking all precautions. It will include a team of doctors and a constant supply of drinking water, juices and biscuits for the volunteers participating in the event.

The officials said that the department have identified 450 spot after a ninemonth-long survey of the lion movements and sightings. These include s e t t l e m e n t colonies where lions are seen regularly.

"The timing is perfect for the census as visibility in the jungle is high. One can easily see half a kilometre into the jungle. The water holes have shrunk with the onset of summer, making it easy to monitor the movement of the lions," said SK Nanda, principal secretary, forest and environment.

The computer analysis of data will start from April 27 with observers from Wildlife Institute of India, which has drawn up a plan to shift some lions at an alternate habitat in neighbouring MP. Gujarat, obviously, does not want to give up its 'pride' and officials are confident that the census would only reinforce the lion conservation efforts of the state's forest department in the last 50 years.

This Gir village to run on the sun

24-04-2010
This Gir village to run on the sun
Times of India By Kumar Manish
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/This-Gir-village-to-run-on-the-sun/articleshow/5850460.cms

After living all their lives without electricity, maldhari community of Jambhutala has found light in solar energy. Jambhutala is an interior village in Gir sanctuary and will be first to be installed with LED-based solar lighting system. The village has around 61 households.

Principal secretary, environment and forests, SK Nanda, says, "This is pilot project to be implemented first in this village. Later on it will be replicated in other villages too. Solar-based lighting system is the best suited to the villagers' need without compromising on the sanctuary ecology."

According to forest department, Jambhutala is solely depended upon either kerosene or firewood, none available easily.

The project will be implemented by Gujarat Ecology Commission. Member Secretary of GEC, E Balagurusamy, says, "These villages are part of the Gir eco system and play a crucial role in protection of the wildlife. They are also a great source of information for the forest department on any suspicious activities inside the sanctuary."

"Providing electricity lines is not a viable options as the overhead wires or underground electric wires are fraught with dangers, which can affect the wildlife inside the sanctuary," adds he.

The total project cost will be around Rs five lakh. Balagurusamy says, "We are hoping that the project will be completed before the monsoon season."

According to GEC, each of the household will be provided with two solar lights, one for the kitchen purpose and other for other household activities and also street light facility for them. Nanda says, "Earlier, during our meeting with villagers inside the sanctuary, they had complained of non-availability of kerosene and also lot of problems in collecting firewood."

Children of Kankranch village in Liliya taluka played with lion cub

24-04-2010
Children of Kankranch village in Liliya taluka played with lion cub
Divya Bhaskar
Print Edition


Friday, April 23, 2010

Lion census at Gir from Apr 24

23-04-2010
Lion census at Gir from Apr 24
Indian Express
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/lion-census-at-gir-from-apr-24/609743/

After five years, the lion census in Gir will begin on April 24. The four-day exercise will involve over 1,500 Forest department personnel, volunteers and wildlife experts, who will use Global Positioning System (GPS) and Geographical Information System (GIS) devices. The latest technology would provide very specific field data.

"The exercise is an integral part of wildlife management in Bruhad Gir that includes Gir National Park and touches Junagadh, Amreli, Bhavnagar and Porbandar districts," said S K Nanda, Principal Secretary, Environment and Forest.

The previous headcount in May 2005 had recorded 359 big cats in Gir's protected area, which includes Girnar Forest and the coastal areas of Veraval, Sutrapada, Kodinar, Una and Jafarbad. On April 24 and April 25, the geographical locations of lions will be recorded; and on April 26 and 27, the final estimate will be done.

Around 100 sub zonal forest officers have been given the task of photographing and observing the lions to log details of each animal, said Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Pradeep Khanna. He added that 135 Hand Held Units will help precisely locate the lions.

To expedite the process, five senior forest officers will be involved. They are: Additional Chief Conservator of Forest, Social Forestry H S Singh; Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) M M Sharma; CCF, Junagadh Wildlife Circle, S K Chaturvedi; CCF Wildlife Crime, D K Sharma; and CCF D S Narve.

"The best method is beat verification, which is foolproof and consumes less time and money. Together with this method, the GPS and GIS systems will be employed to prevent any overlapping," said S K Chaturvedi, CCF, Junagadh.

"Summer is the best time to conduct this exercise. Lions and other wild animals need to drink at least once in 24 hours and the limited number of water holes make it easier for us to locate them," said Chaturvedi.

Sabarkantha leopard poacher held

The man behind the leopard poaching case reported 15 days ago in Sabarkantha has been arrested. CCF Wildlife Crime D K Sharma said: "Babu Maurya was arrested by the Wildlife Crime Department on Tuesday. He has been booked under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Four persons have been arrested under this Act. They are all natives of Rajasthan."

Docs, anti-heat kits for lion census volunteers

23-04-2010
Docs, anti-heat kits for lion census volunteers
Times of India
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA

Keeping in view the scorching heat that enumerators will have to encounter during the lion census, the forest department is taking all precautions. It will include a team of doctors and a constant supply of drinking water, juices and biscuits for the volunteers participating in the four-day event beginning Saturday.

Among 1,300 volunteers and staff participating in census, there are 12 doctors and 11 researchers. These doctors according to officials would be there to take care of any emergency be it heat stroke or attack by wild animals.

This year's kit would not just take care of the food for the enumerators but also mattresses to rest. "Any enumerator in the fields has to sit down on the ground if he wants to take rest. These mattresses would also come in handy for them. Also a cap and T-shirts marking them as census participants would help them get adequate support from the locals if they have spotted lion in the vicinity," said an officer from forest department.

Deputy conservator of forests, Sasan, Sandeep Kumar says, "The kits would have water bottles, nuts, roasted grams, juices, first aid box, and a mattress." He said that juices would definitely help them beat the heat. A senior officer said that this time there is a separate team to supply food and medication. Principal secretary, state's forest and environment department, SK Nanda says, "During my visit we spotted two cubs with a lioness and also adult leopards, which is a good sign. This means that there is good conservation work happening here. However, these were in category of two-three months and thus vulnerable and hence during the count, this would also be kept in mind."

Nanda says, "We have identified 450 spot after a nine-month long survey of the lion movements and sightings. These include settlement colonies where lions are seen regularly." "The census teams are backed up by GIS and GPS devices for the marking location of lion, spotting places, roaming area of pride and their prey area," he adds.

"The time is perfect for the census as visibility in the jungle is high. One can easily see half a kilometre inside the jungle. The drinking water facility also shrinks, making it easy to monitor the movement of the lions," Nanda explains. For conducting the census, the group comprising of one enumerator, a sub enumerator, volunteer and local guide have to keep an eye over the selected spot continuously for 24 hours.

The computer analysis of census data will start from April 27 with forest department officials and experts from Wildlife Institute experts from Delhi.

Big cat lover Junagadh doc part of team too

Dr B Garana a medical practitioner is extremely excited about his new job in the jungle. Garana is a part of the medical team. He says, "This is my first such experience. Being from Junagadh, I have special attachment with lions. When I learnt about the census preparations, I decided to volunteer and sent my nomination." Lions are not just pride of the state but that of the nation, hence getting associated with census was a matter of pride for me, he adds. Interestingly about 850 medical kits which includes medicines to boost nutrition and beat the heat would have also been sponsored by Garana.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gir lion count to be declared on Gujarat Day

22-04-2010
Gir lion count to be declared on Gujarat Day
Times of India
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1271930381171

The much awaited counting of the Asiatic lion to begin on April 24, will cover another milestone — that of taking the shortest ever time to compute data and declare the numbers by May 1 when the state will celebrate 50 years of its foundation.

Within three days of the exercise, covering four major districts of Junagadh, Porbandar, Amreli and Bhavnagar, which concludes on April 27, the forest department will have the data ready. Preparations are on a warfooting after chief minister Narendra Modi's office desired the results on Gujarat Day when Modi will kick off the Swarnim Gujarat celebrations.

Besides, indications are that the lion count is expected to cross 400 mark. Officials said that use of modern technology, like Global Positioning System (GPS), would help estimate the number quickly. The last census in 2005 after a month of computation and collation of data declared the lion population at 359.

The photo records of each pride would help eliminate duplication and also tell the unique identification marks. Principal secretary, forests and environment SK Nanda said that as a part of the ninemonth old exercise, the forest department has identified around 450 locations where lions have been sighted. "The team would continuously keep monitoring these locations."

He said for the first time the forest department will be doing a digitised mapping of the lion using GPS.

He further said "nearly 130 odd GPS would be given to the zonal officers and above who would be taking the position of the lion spotted and would note down the details."  Nanda said that there are 100 sub zonal officials, 28 zonal and seven regional teams which would all have GPS. He said as soon as the team in the field sights a lion, it will inform the sub-zonal officials who will rush to the spot with GPS.

When asked about CM declaring the results on May 1, Nanda said that the department would be ready with the count on April 30."

Media kept out

Usually during census operations, mediapersons are allowed to be a part of the team for a day. But in 2010 census journalists have been kept out. A couple of media photographers had applied to be a part of the census, but were turned down. Even private photographers who participated in the exercise, would not be allowed to use the photographs they have taken, all these would be downloaded at the office of the forest department.

Leopard attack farm labour

22-04-2010
Leopard attack farm labour
Divya Bhaskar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

Yesterday a leopardess was caught from a farm in Aadri village in Verawal Taluka. Today, a farm labour was attacked by a leopard in the same farm. It seems Verawal region is very much suitable of such frequent attacks.

Yesterday female leopard was caught in farm of Laxman Vejanand Jotwa. At the same place the leopard attacked Hari Raja (Age-27) who was cutting the crop.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lion census: 200 cameras to scan Gir

21-04-2010
Lion census: 200 cameras to scan Gir
DNA
http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_lion-census-200-cameras-to-scan-gir_1373800

The 13th Asiatic Lion Population Estimates 2010 will begin on April 24 in Greater Gir Sanctuary, which includes Gir National Park and Sanctuary. The area is spread in four districts — Junagadh, Amreli, Bhavnagar and Porbandar.

Principal sectary forest and environment department SK Nanda informed the media on Tuesday that the population estimate this time will be different from the earlier exercises. "For the first time, we are using 100 GPS equipment, 200 cameras and 100 special camera teams for making an accurate documentation of the lions and keeping the exercise error free. Another first is that the exercise will also incorporate Greater Gir," Nanda said and added that the many non-forest staff as ex-government officials, doctors, journalists, nature lovers would participate in the exercise.

"We have identified 450 locations in the Greater Gir area where enumerators will take estimate of the lions," he said.

Giving details of schedule, Pradeep Khanna, PCCF, Gujarat, said the exercise will start on April 24 and continue till April 27.The findings will be announced on April 29. "About 1,600 people will take part in the survey, out of which 100 will be volunteers," he said.

Speaking on the occasion, senior IFS officer RV Asari, the nodal officer for the survey, said, in order to make a comprehensive survey, the Greater Gir area has been divided into seven regions, 28 zones and 100 sub-zones.

Lion population Estimation from 24th April

21-04-2010
Lion population Estimation from 24th April
Divya Bhaskar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

Lion population Estimation is to start from 24th April 2010. forest department and lion lovers are expecting growth of about 7-10% As per census-2005 count is 359 lions in Gir PA.

This time 450 location points are fixed and counting shall continue till 27th April. All the date will be officially announced by Chief Minister Shree Narendra Modi on Gujarat Day-1st May 2010. This is 13th Lion census organized by the Forest Dept. said Principal Secretary Shree S. K. Nanda. This time the counting process is more scientific equipped with latest gazettes like GPS systems, Wireless, GIS systems for exate location of the animal etc. Primary count shall began from 2 PM on 24th April to 25th April. And final count shall be done from 2PM on 26th April to 2PM on 27th April. Said PCCF Shri Khanna. He added that four districts of Junagadh, Amreli, Bhavnagar and Porbandar are included. Five observers from Wildlife institute, Central Govt. and Environment and Forest Ministry have been deputed to monitor the whole process.

The whole forest area is divided into bits as units and villages in revenue area as units. Further whole PA area to be included during the count is divided into 28 zones and 100 sub-zones informed PCCF Shree Asari Direct sighting is best method he added.

Fact file:-

- Population as per Census-2005 was 359
- Staff of 1600 will be employed in counting.
- There will be 450 Locations
- 100 GPS systems to be used
- 100 special and 100 professional cameras to be used.
- There 89 Gir Lions in Indian Zoos.
- Count shall include separately Male, Female & cubs
- Four District included
- Place, Date and GPS Location of each sighting will be recorded.
- 100 volunteers will participate
- Team of Doctors available
- 200 vehicle and 450 bikes to be used

Leopard that attacked criminal, caught

21-04-2010
Leopard that attacked criminal, caught
Divya Bhaskar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

A leopard was habitating in Godhana and Katwana village area in Porbandar Taluka and had killed many cattle and attacked many people during last five months. Recently it had attacked a criminal (and the criminal was then caught by police from the hospital!). These village are very near to Barda sanctuary which is home to many leopards. Finally this leopard was caught in the trap laid by forest department in farm of Lakhman Odedra in Katwana area.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Leopard skin trade mastermind nabbed

20-04-2010
Leopard skin trade mastermind nabbed
Times of India By Pramod Panwar
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1271850144796

The prime accused in the wild animal skin trading scam, which had been busted in a Sabarkantha village after a forest department sting operation on April 1, has been arrested.

Babu Savaji Modiya, who was on the run since the busting of the scam, was arrested by the forest department from his native village Gadi Vankada in the district on April 15. After a day's remand, he was produced in a judicial court of Vijaynagar on April 17, which sent him to judicial custody, said MJ Parmer, deputy conservator of forests, Sabarkantha. "On tip off, a forest department team with the help of local police nabbed Modhiya from his house," said range forest officer, Vijaynagar BV Shisodia.

Modhiya was on the run since the arrests of his associates Lakshman Patel of Ahmedabad, Prakash Patel, a driver with forest department in Vijaynagar, Shyamji Patel, a land broker in Amreli and Deepak Parmar, a Nadiad district education office clerk. All five were caught by forest officials selling a leopard skin during an under-cover operation carried out by the department in Vijaynagar, but Modhiya had managed to escape.

Furthermore, Shisodia said that Modiya, during his interrogation admitted to his involvement in the hunting of big cats. Babu has had a criminal record and there are still some cases, including murder, booked against him and in court. Modhiya was arrested under sections 9, 51 and 52 of the Wildlife Act.







Babu Modiya

Leopard helps cops nab wanted extortionist

20-04-2010
Leopard helps cops nab wanted extortionist
Times of India
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1271850144796

In a bizarre incident, a man who had been on the run and was wanted in several cases of extortion in Bagvadar police station in Porbandar district was caught after he had to be hospitalised for a leopard attack.

According to forest officials, Meru Khunti, a resident of Kutvana village of Porbandar district, was admitted to a hospital on Monday morning after he was severely injured by a leopard on his head and back. However, there is not clarity as to the exact spot where the big cat pounced on the man in the village, forest officials said.

"Khunti is at present in serious condition and is under treatment. We have police guards on duty at the hospital in Porbandar. He will be arrested after his treatment," said a forest official. "We visited the place where he said he had been attacked on the outskirts of Kutvana village. It is on the border of a forest area. However, we have not found any signs of a fight with an animal," said the official.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Handicapped man attacked by leopard, killed on Girnar steps

18-04-2010
Handicapped man attacked by leopard, killed on Girnar steps

Times of India
Print Edition

A physically challenged man, who had managed to climb up 3200 steps of the Girnar mountain in Junagadh district was found torn apart by a wild animal late on Friday night. The man was identified as Mahesh Parmar,28, a native of Sihore taluka of Bhavnagar.

Forest department officials said that the man was attacked and killed by a leopard. "This is the first time ever that a leopard has managed to kill on the steps of Girnar. We are investigating further," district forest official Deepak Pandya said.

Parmar had lost both his feet but had managed to climb the steps with his hands and used to beg on the Girnar steps. Meanwhile in Godhan village of Porbandar taluka a 20-year-old man was attacked by a leopard and injured on his head.

1300 volunteers and experts to spot the lion king

18-04-2010
1300 volunteers and experts to spot the lion king
DNA By Jumana Shah
http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_1300-volunteers-and-experts-to-spot-the-lion-king_1372626

Giri has a scar on her tail, she is not very ferocious but protective about her thee cubs. Spotted at waterhole in Beat no285; 1400 hrs; 25/04/10

Bhuro's mane has a dark golden fringe, brown scar on torso, hunting for a shade; in Mahuva, Bhavnagar Reads what could be a typical GPS posting to be used by Gujarat foresters for enumerating the lions next weekend. The suspense of five years will be resolved in 72 hours by a team of 1,300 volunteers with senior state foresters and cat experts of the country. The increase in the Asiatic Lions' population residing in Gir jungles of Saurashtra will be known when the state of Gujarat turns 50 on May 1.

Spotting the lion king was never easy, but the foresters are hoping technology will come to their aid this time. This is the first time that the lion census is being conducted on such a massive scale over a large area and much more scientifically than the previous years. Even as the mercury peaks, the census will be carried out with labourers, forest staff and volunteers spread over 300 beats carved out of 5,000 sq km area, called the Greater Gir. Seven regions have been identified; divided into zones, then subzones and then beats.

This is also the first time that the 'Greater Gir' area is to be covered for the census in four districts — Amreli, Junagadh, Bhavnagar and parts of Porbandar. Earlier it was restricted to the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, spread over 1,412 sq km area. The inclusion of this area is a restrained admission by the establishment that the lion habitat has now expanded much beyond the sanctuary area. The majestic beast is now steadily reclaiming its traditional corridor all the way from Porbandar to Bhavnagar. The last census process in 2005, which stated the lion population to be 359 in Gir Sanctuary, was carried out through pug marks.

This time, the methodology of 'direct sighting' will be used, through which specific body marks will be identified and uploaded on the GPS device carried by each team. This data will be available to all other teams simultaneously. "It will reduce redundancies to a great extent, bit not completely," says principal chief conservator of forests Pradip Khanna.

Ironically, it might be relatively easier to enumerate the lion king in the heat as they are most likely to hover close to water holes. Refuting the use of any artificial methods, state's wildlife warden RV Asari said only natural resources will be used. "The lions are generally spotted in a pride. The identification will be a body mark, not a number. The locals give names to the animal for ease of use, but officially we do not name or number them," Asari said.

The volunteers are being trained for almost two months now.

In 72 hours, the lion king will be enumerated

18-04-2010
In 72 hours, the lion king will be enumerated
DNA By Jumana Shah
http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_in-72-hours-the-lion-king-will-be-enumerated_1372670

The suspense that has built up over the last five years over the lion population in Gir will end within 72 hours of April 24, when the scheduled lion census in the region begins.

But the exact number by which the population of the Asiatic Lions in Gir has risen will be known only on May 1, when Gujarat turns 50 as an independent state. The census will be carried out by a team of 1,300 volunteers who will be joined by senior state foresters and big cat experts drawn from all over the country.

Spotting the lion king was never easy but foresters are hoping that technology will come to their aid this time. This is the first time that the lion census is being conducted on such a massive scale over a large area and much more scientifically than in previous years.
The labourers, forest staff and volunteers involved in the census will fan out over 300 beats carved out of a 5,000 sq km area called the Greater Gir. Seven regions were identified; these were then divided into zones, sub-zones and beats.

This is also the first time that the 'Greater Gir' region which includes areas in four districts - Amreli, Junagadh, Bhavnagar and parts of Porbandar - is to be covered for the census. Earlier, it was restricted to the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary spread over an area of 1,412 sq km. The inclusion of other areas for the census is a restrained admission by the establishment that the lion habitat has now expanded much beyond the sanctuary area.

The majestic beast is now steadily reclaiming its traditional corridor all the way from Porbandar to Bhavnagar. The last lion census of 2005, which stated that the lion population in the Gir sanctuary was 359, was conducted by identification of pug marks.

This time the methodology of 'direct sighting' will be used. Under this method, specific body marks will be identified and uploaded into the GPS device carried by each team. This data will be available to all other teams simultaneously.

"It will reduce redundancies to a great extent, but not completely," said principal chief conservator of forests, Pradip Khanna.

Ironically, it might be relatively easier to enumerate the lion king in summer as they tend to hover close to the water holes because of the heat.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Within 18 months before Lion census

17-04-2010
Within 18 months before Lion census
Gujarat Samachar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

Lion census is to begun from 24th April. At the time, 117 wild animal deaths have been reported that include lions, leopards, hynas, python, deer and blue-bulls.

News article further writes that since 23-8-2008 till date, 18 lions, 29 leopars, 5 lion cubs, 2 pythons, 6 Hynas, 1 crocodile, 3 wolves, 23 blue-bulls, 11 black-bucks and 11 chinkars in total 117 wild animals and 1 owl, 5 darters and 42 peacocks have died. Of this

• three lions have died due to internal fight, 1 lioness, 5 leopards
• two cubs & one hyna have died due to accidents, one lion, two lioness & one leopard have been killed
• One lioness six lions, two lionesses, one leopard, and one hyna have died during treatment.
• Two leopards and one cub have died due to drawning.
• One lion, two hynas, one python and one crocodile have died due to vehicle accident. Not a single driver is still caught for such vehicle accident & negligence.
• One lion and two leopards have died due to falling in Open Wells.

Maximum animal deaths are in Tulsishyam range that includes seven lions, three lionesses, 8 leopards and 2 hynas Eight forest were reported in which 125 Ha of forest was burnt.

41 animal attacks humans were reported of which four people died. All these four human deaths are due to leopard attacks.

Lion leopard attack at 40 km away from Gir forest

17-04-2010
Lion leopard attack at 40 km away from Gir forest
Divya Bhaskar
Briefly translated from Gujarati


A lion killed a domestic cattle at Dhobha village which is 40 kms away from Gir forest. Where as a leopard killed a calf at Vashiyali village in Savarkundla Taluka. One cow was also killed by lion in Hadada forest area.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Two leopard cubs found abandoned in field

16-04-2010
Two leopard cubs found abandoned in field
Times of India
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/rajkot/Two-leopard-cubs-found-abandoned-in-field-/articleshow/5799776.cms

Two one-month-old leopard cubs were found lying abandoned from a sugarcane field in a village near Veraval on Wednesday.

According to forest department, the cubs were sighted in the field belonging to Jetha Jadav in Bosan village on Wednesday morning. "We visited the site after Jadav alerted us. The cubs believed to be aged one-month-old are in a healthy condition. However, instead of caging them, we've decided to keep them at the spot so that their mother can come and take them away, as the cubs are best cared for by their mother," said a forester.

However, as the female leopard did not visit the cubs on Wednesday night, forest officials have decided to wait for another two days and nights, after which, they are likely to take the cubs in their custody.


The two cubs found in a farm near Veraval

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Leopard skin traders released on bail

13-04-2010
Leopard skin traders released on bail
Times of India
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA

All four accused involved in the trading of leopard skin and caught red-handed by the forest department in Vijaynagar last week were released on bail on Monday by additional sessions court of Idar in Sabarkantha.

Lakshman Patel of Ahmedabad, Prakash Patel, driver with the forest department in Vijayanagar, Shyamji Patel, land broker in Amreli and Deepak Parmar, a clerk in district education office of Nadiad, were sent in judicial custody after after they were caught selling a leopard skin. Their remand period got over on April 6.

Forest officials feel that the release of the accused will help trace the main accused Babu Modiya as Patel and Shymaji are natives of Vijaynagar taluka. "While releasing the accused, the court laid down two conditions — they cannot leave Vijaynagar and they would have to lend co-operation during the investigation," said assistant conservator of forests PJ Parmar.

"The release of the four will pave the way for an easy access to prime accused as they might now contact the prime accused Modiya, who has been on the run and might be hiding in the adjacent forest of Rajasthan," Parmar added.

Forest officials feel that these accuseds' release will help trace the main accused Babu Modiya

FSL Van for crime detection in Gir

13-04-2010
FSL Van for crime detection in Gir
Gujarat Samachar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

An Van Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) can has been given to Sakkar Bag Zoo for on-field detection of wildlife crime. It will be a great help in WL crime detection. In most of the WL crimes there is no eye witness and hence quick and clear detection is very much important. The Van is equipped, informed Zoo Director Shree V. G. Rana. Later on this Van will be permanently stationed at Sasan (Gir).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gir lions to be mapped using GPS

12-04-2010
Gir lions to be mapped using GPS
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA

This Will Help Create Digital Database Of The Big Cats

The lion census to begin from April 24 in and around Gir, will have another added feature. It will create a new digitised database of the Asiatic lion, by mapping the position of a lion on Geographical Information System (GIS).

Forest officials said that the teams involved in the census will be equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment, which will help mapping of lions, which are moving out of Gir forest in search of newer habitats.

The census this time will cover the entire coastline, where lions have been sighted. Deputy Conservator of Forest Sandeep Kumar who is incharge of the census said 'nearly 130 odd GPS devices will be given to the zonal officers who would note down position of the lion along with other details."

Kumar said that there are 100 sub zonal officials, 28 zonal and seven regional teams involved in the operation. With GPS, the officials would take down the exact location of the lion, including the longitude, latitude, and the distance from North Pole would be noted.

"We are using GIS and GPS this time to know exact location of lion spotted. On that basis, we can say what is the composition of land and where they are exactly located during the census period," Kumar said. The officials will also take photographs of all the lions, lionesses and cubs spotted, so that they can have photographic evidence and verify the same with unique identification markings of lions. During the 2005 census, 359 lions were found in Gir.

40 Lions have not seen the Jungle!

12-04-2010
40 Lions have not seen the Jungle!
Divya Bhaskar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

Gir and Lion seen synonymous to all but there are about 40 lions habitating local village and vidi areas outside the jungle who will never see the Gir jungle.

There are many lions that have moved out of Gir forest into revenue areas and are still coming back to forest. But there are many other lions who have left Gir and are so much away that they cannot come back to the Gir jungle during their life time. There is estimate of 40 such lions. The reason for them not coming back to jungle is their inability to cross territory of other lions on their way back.

From Kankrach in Liliya Taluka to Chandgadh in Amreli Taluka about 20 such lion reside. Five residing in revenue Rabarika vidi have their territory till Jesar, Devda and Bagdana. Whereas a group in Pipardi area on Shetrunji river bank are moving in revenur villages of Shelana, Dhoba, Morba & Luvara, where there is no forest area.

Lion group in Bhonkarva – Vijayanagar area move till Likhada. Chhapari, Madhada and Dedakadi but their way back to jungle is closed. Check Dams (reservoirs) and farm water tanks are their water sources and sufficient domestic cattle as their food.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

No Asian lions for Winnipeg zoo Planning to welcome African cats, instead

11-04-2010
No Asian lions for Winnipeg zoo
Planning to welcome African cats, instead

Winnipeg Free Press By Carol Sanders
http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/no-asian-lions-for-winnipeg-zoo-90460274.html

WONDERING where the Asian lions are?

Well, the pair the Assiniboine Park Zoo was preparing to welcome this summer aren't coming.

"Although we did our best to enter the Asian lion breeding programs in Europe and India, we were informed there is a waiting list of dozens of zoos ahead of us," zoo spokesman Dr. Bob Wrigley said.

"The animals are so rare, and the breeding so carefully controlled among participant zoos, that it will likely be many years before we are selected."

Now, the zoo is planning to get some equally majestic, albeit less-rare and exotic, African lions, he said.

There are just 350 Asiatic lions left in the wild -- all of them in the Gir National Park and Lion Sanctuary in northern India.

The animals were almost wiped out by sport hunting over the last two centuries, the Asiatic Lion Information Centre reports.

When the lion hunt was outlawed in the 1900s, the greatest threat came from the destruction of habitat. Vast tracts of jungle forest were cleared for timber to sell and to make way for the increasing human population. To bolster the endangered Asiatic lion population, co-operative inter-zoo breeding programs were set up. In 1990, two Asiatic lion couples from India were brought to the London Zoo, the Asiatic Lion Information Centre said. Zoos in Zurich and Helsinki received lions in 1991 and 1992 respectively. By the end of 1996 some 12 zoos were participating in the Asiatic lion breeding program. Ten years later, there were 99 lions at 36 zoos, the information centre said.

The Zoological Society of Manitoba was hoping Winnipeg's zoo might be the first in North America to house Asiatic lions.

Last year, it decided to spend $1 million to convert the unused 20-year-old panda bear enclosure into a home for Asian lions. It was seen as an investment in promoting conservancy and education, and a way to boost zoo attendance. The warm-weather cats needed space to roam and a cosy abode in cold winters. Later this spring, the renovated panda pad will house a pair of African lions, said Wrigley. "...We have made great progress on the lion exhibit -- including the indoor exhibit area, a beautiful interpretive space and renovations to the outside enclosure."

Around five years ago, the zoo had some African lions who had cubs. Nearly half a million visitors flocked to the zoo to see the king of beasts. They are no longer at the zoo. "I believe the new lions will be a real hit," he said.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mock-Drill of Lion Census

10-04-2010
Mock-Drill of Lion Census
Gujarat Samchar
Briefly translated from Gujarati

Census of famous Gir lions is scheduled from 24th to 27th of April  2010. a mock-up counting was arranged on 9th April 2010, which was successfully done by the Forest Department. This was arranged to final probable problems during the census, said DCF Shri Sandeep Kumar. About 1400 forest staff took part in the event. Also to enable easy sighting, many new water points have been created.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Road passing through blackbuck park to be blocked

09-04-2010
Road passing through blackbuck park to be blocked
Times of India By Vijaysinh Parmar
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1270795026609

In a solution to a long -pending decision on a kuccha road that connects two villages, cutting through Blackbuck National Park (BNP) in Velavadar taluka of Bhavnagar, the Centre has announced the closing down of the road, allowing undisturbed passage for the wildlife including blackbucks. Regular vehicular traffic on this six km road had been a fatal hindrance to the wildlife, many of which were run over by speeding vehicles.

According to sources, central government has given a grant of Rs 6.12 crore for the "construction of alternative roads in lieu of the existing public road in Blackbuck National Park, Velavadar in Bhavnagar district". Forest officials confirmed the news, saying that two alternate pucca roads will be constructed which will divert traffic. The process in this direction has already begun.

"The grants have been given under the 'Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA)''. "At present, vehicular traffic passes from Velavadar village to Kalatala village. This road connects the Dholera-Bhavnagar highway. After blocking it, we will construct two alternate roads. Both roads, total 14 km, will connect Dholera-Bhavnagar main road from Velavadar and Kalatala sides,'' said JS Solanki, assistant conservator of forests









Map of Velavadar National Park

15 peacocks found dead in state

09-04-2010
15 peacocks found dead in state
Times of India
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1270795026609

Fifteen peacocks died on Thursday in two separate incidents reported from villages of Junagadh and Sabarkantha districts.

Six peacocks including three peahens were found dead on Ubharan Raod in Malpur taluka of Sabarkantha district. According to range forest officer (RFO) DP Asari, it appeared to be a case of food poisoning. The birds were found lying in the vicinity of a cultivated land next to a temple there. "We are awaiting the FSL reports to confirm the cause of death," he said.

On the outskirts of Juni Chavand village in Visavadar taluka of Junagadh district, nine peacocks were found dead. "The carcasses appeared to have been lying there for over two days as about seven of them were eaten away by wild animals," said L M Kandoria, the regional forest officer. "Prima facie, the birds appeared to have been killed by pesticide poisoning from eating seeds or crops in fields nearby. At present there is no reason to suspect any other cause of death. PM reports will throw more light," Kandoria said.

Inter-state gang may be active in Sabarkantha

09-04-2010
Inter-state gang may be active in Sabarkantha
Times of India
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1270795026609

State forest department officials investigating the two recent cases where leopard skin and claws were found think that the poaching happened in Rajasthan and later the body parts of the animal were brought here for trading.

Senior foresters said the main accused Babu Modia was a resident of the district and had relatives in Rajasthan. They said there was a possibility that the accused might be dealing with traders from Rajasthan.

A senior officer refusing to be quoted said that poaching was rampant in Rajasthan, due to involvement of local tribes. "In Gujarat local people might be involved in trade but their involvement in killing was a remote possibility," he said. The forest officials said that there was a possibility of poaching in the area, but now the officials have employed informers in the village as a result of which this trade was getting exposed.

He said that it was proper vigil and feedback from the informers that was helping the officials. However, officials said that after the poaching incident of the lions in 2007, the government has asked the officials to keep a vigil and has even roped in the intelligence bureau officials.

Chief conservator of forest (crime) DK Sharma said the spurt in such recovery is only because of the proper vigil by the forest department. "The main accused, Modia, has relatives in Rajasthan and hence he was moving between Sabarkantha and Rajasthan." Sharma said that the possibility of interstate gang could not be ruled out.

He said that the forest officials were also investigating on this lines and once Modia is arrested, the picture will be clearer.

Dead leopard’s nails recovered in Sabarkantha

09-04-2010
Dead leopard's nails recovered in Sabarkantha
Times of India
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1270795026609

In yet another catch, the forest department has recovered 18 nails of a young leopard which had died of starvation 12 days ago near Aud village in Sabarkantha district. This is the second major catch after a leopard skin was recovered.

Three unidentified person who managed to give forest cops the slip, were performing tantrik rituals with the nails, foresters said.

Chief Conservator Crime Forest (CCCF) Gandhinagar, DK Sharma, said, "Based on a tip-off forest officials raided the crematorium situated on the outskirts of the village. Three accused had just begun what appeared to be a tantrik (black magic) ritual. But, at the sight of the government vehicle, they fled leaving the nails behind."

The leopard carcass had been found in a decomposed condition from the forest area of the village on March 27. Postmortem revealed that the animal had starved to death. Someone had taken out its nails after the animal died.

Sharma said the officials had earlier received a tip-off that the local villagers had the nails. A close watch was kept on the movement of suspects. He said on Thursday they got the tip-off that the villagers were performing some ritual.

Sharma said since these suspects came from the nearby villages where this ritual was being performed, they have been identified and will be soon arrested.

Officials from the department said these nails were probably being used to keep away the evil spirits. According to Sharma, Darbars believe that that wearing the nails of an animal with power would make the heart of the child strong and would give them the power. Also, one had to perform the ritual before getting it framed in metal, gold and silver.

Leopard skin traders sent in judicial custody

All four accused of trading carcass of wild animals in Vijaynagar, who had been granted six-day remand on April 2 by judicial magistrate, were sent in judicial custody after their remand period got over on Tuesday.

According to assistant conservator of forests, Sabarkantha, RM Desai, "The leopard was believed to have been first trapped and later killed by hitting heavy rods on to its head. "We have also recovered mobile phones and equipment which were probably used for poaching the animal," Desai said. These have been sent to Gandhinagar Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) for investigation. "A leopard has 18 nails and can be sold to the extend of Rs 50,000 per claw," he added.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Leopards were killed with blunt weapons

07-04-2010
Leopards were killed with blunt weapons
Times of India
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1270627100890

The four accused, who were nabbed by forest officials from Vijaynagar in Sabarkantha district for leopard skin trading last week, were denied bail under Wildlife Protection Act.

The forest officials said that the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) report on the skin states that the leopards were killed with a blunt weapon such as club or stones.

DK Sharma, chief conservator of forest (wildlife crime), told TOI that the case was important as it has exposed the inter-state nexus between the traders. "The accused have been denied bail and the hunt for the main accused in the case — Babu Modhiya, who is believed to be hiding in Rajasthan, is on. Rajasthan police has been informed about him," he said.

The four accused arrested include Prakash Patel, a driver with forest department, Deepak Parmar, from Ahmedabad, Shyam Mohan Patel, a land broker in Amreli and Lakshman Patel a resident of Vijaynagar, Sabarkantha. The four were arrested while selling leopard skin as that of a tiger's. The skin was around a year old and likely of leopard cub, added officials.

Govt employee among leopard skin traders

07-04-2010
Govt employee among leopard skin traders
Times of India
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1270627100890

One of the four persons, arrested with a leopard skin last week, is a government employee, who had been on leave for the past one year.

Deepak Parmar is an employee at the office of the district education officer, Nadiad and forest officials are now investigating into reasons for his year-long leave and whether he could be involved in other wildlife crimes.

However, according to the officials, Sabarkantha is fast turning into a hotbed of wildlife crimes. Apart from the recovery of this leopard skin, forest officials recently found claws of a leopard, who had died of starvation, missing.

Deputy conservator of forest, MJ Parmar, who is investigating the case, says in the case a leopard skin was recovered after a sting operation it was revealed that the skin was likely of a 2-3 years old cub. The skin was one year old and did not belong to the royal family, he added.

The foresters had earlier expressed apprehension that this could be the skin which has been reportedly stolen from the royal place of Harshvardhan Sinhji Rathore, the royal family of Vijaynagar. A police complaint in this regard was also filed by the royal family.

Deepak was part of the team that had come for trading the skin and was given this skin by one Babu Modia, who is the main accused. Teams have been sent to Rajasthan and parts of Sabarkantha district to nab Modia. Once he is arrested, the role of all the accused would be ascertained.

Meanwhile, in another important development, the department revealed that the carcass of a leopard, which had died of starvation in Aud forest near Shamlaji, also did not have claws. Chief conservator crime cell, Gandhingar, DK Sharma, who was at the spot said, "The big cat had died a natural death, but since the body lay there for a long time, it appears as though someone had pulled out the nails."

Officials said that there is a possibility of a gang operating in the area which is involved in wildlife crimes.

Monday, April 05, 2010

African primitive tribe Siddi, will be eco-guide at Gir

05-04-2010
African primitive tribe Siddi, will be eco-guide at Gir
PTI By Premal Balan
http://www.ptinews.com/news/595783_African-primitive-tribe-Siddi--will-be-eco-guide-at-Gir

The men folk of African primitive tribe Siddi, who were brought here as slaves by the Portuguese, are being trained to become eco-guides of the Asiatic lions last abode -- Gir Sanctuary -- by the Gujarat government.

This is a part of the project initiated by the state Tribal Development department in order to improve livelihood, housing, access to safe drinking water and electricity, increase literacy, health facilities and roads to the five major primitive Tribal Groups (PTG) of Gujarat, namely Kolgha, Kathodi, Kotwalia, Padhar and Siddi.

"Looking at the concentration of Siddi tribe near the Gir forests in Junagadh, we thought of training them to become eco-guides, which will help them take advantage of the growing eco-tourism in the state, especially around Gir forests region," Secretary, Tribal Development A M Tiwari told PTI.

Gujarat’s Gir lion monopoly faces fresh threat

05-04-2010
Gujarat's Gir lion monopoly faces fresh threat
Todaynews.in
http://www.todaynews.in/city/ahmedabad/gujarats-gir-lion-monopoly-faces-fresh-threat-59953.html

The odds are stacked against Gujarat which has the distinction of being the only state in the country to have Asiatic lions. In the continuing tussle over relocation of some of the Asiatic lions to Madhya Pradesh, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has voted against the Gujarat government's opposition to shifting of the big cats.It may be recalled that the Supreme Court had asked the NBWL to give its opinion on an affidavit filed by the Gujarat government opposing the relocation of ...

Gujarat's Gir lion monopoly faces fresh threat

05-04-2010
Gujarat's Gir lion monopoly faces fresh threat
Times of India By Jumana Shah
http://www.dnaindia.com/india/analysis_gujarat-s-gir-lion-monopoly-faces-fresh-threat_1367619

The odds are stacked against Gujarat which has the distinction of being the only state in the country to have Asiatic lions.

In the continuing tussle over relocation of some of the Asiatic lions to Madhya Pradesh, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has voted against the Gujarat government's opposition to shifting of the big cats.

It may be recalled that the Supreme Court had asked the NBWL to give its opinion on an affidavit filed by the Gujarat government opposing the relocation of the lions to Madhya Pradesh. In an affidavit filed in the Apex court in mid-January, the NBWL said that although Gujarat has done commendable work in lion conservation, the threat of an epidemic wiping out all its Asiatic lions could not be overlooked.

"There is no disputing the fact that Gujarat's contribution to conserving its wildlife is praiseworthy," a source on the board said. "Everyone realises this and, therefore, the prized tigers were also offered to the state."

The source, however, added that epidemics could strike anywhere anytime. "And if an epidemic were to strike in the region, it may affect the entire species adversely given their proximity to each other," the source said. "Moreover, because of the growth in the population of the lions, their habitat is also under strain."

The NBWL affidavit is important as the Supreme Court has been waiting for it to come to a conclusion on the issue. The Gujarat government had filed an affidavit expressing its concerns about moving the lions to M-P, the chief one being that lions and tigers cannot co-exist. The SC had given Gujarat's affidavit to the NBWL with the direction that the board give its opinion on the concerns raised by the state government.

Sources said most of Gujarat's concerns have been addressed in the NBWL's affidavit, which is expected to form the basis for the SC verdict.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Lion census to cover 10,000 sq km

04-04-2010
Lion census to cover 10,000 sq km
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?showST=true&login=default&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&GZ=T&Daily=TOIA&AW=1270627100890
The lion census to begin later this month, will be the first since the formation of the state to cover the entire coastal belt. The counting would be spread over 8,000-10,000 square km area. This census would be covering Bhavnagar, Amreli, Porbandar and Jungadh districts. Officials said that there was a possibility that they may go up to a village in Rajkot district.

The forest department officials said that they in 2006 by Faiyaz Khudsar, a trustee with the Biodiversity Conservation Trust of India, scheduled to be heard on May 5. There is a fear that if the census showed a good increase in the number of lions then the SC might direct Gujarat to give some lions to MP citing reasons of conservation.

The officials say that unlike earlier years, the last five years were the most eventful with even corporate houses from the state pitching in to save the lion. The government had also allocated Rs 40 crore for the same.

A task force was also formed by the state government for the conservation of the lions. The force has also come out with its recommendation, including radio collaring the lions and starting a gene pool. were worried about the outcome of a petition seeking relocation of wild lions filed

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