Tuesday, October 17, 2017






The killing of 15 cows by four lions last week at a cowshed of Juna Vaghaniya village of Amreli district has once again brought to fore the growing concern over man-animal conflict in the vicinity of Gir sanctuary due to lack of space for the big cats. What has scared the villagers is also the fact that the big cats paid a visit the next day too. Locals claimed such attacks, while not frequent, take place once in a while. However, experts are not surprised.

According to them, the eco-sensitive zone, or protected lion area, is not expanding commensurate with rising lion population. According to 2015 lion census data, 210 out of total 523 lions live outside the protected area. The number of lions in Savarkundla and Liliya in Amreli district and surrounding areas increased from 60, as per the preceding census, to over 80 in 2015. Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Pr CCF) H S Singh said, "Such mass cattle killings by lions is not uncommon. Several cows could have died due to heart attack on facing lions. It is important to expand ecosensitive zone.


There is need to build a healthy corridor for lions and give them more space. Each area has the capacity to sustain only a limited number of lions. When the population of an area reaches a saturation point, animal- man conflicts take place." Recalling the incident when lions killed 15 cows in about 45 minutes, Juna Vaghaniya resident Chetan Ramavat said, "Four lions — one male, one female and two sub adults — came around 8.15 pm. As soon as we sensed their presence, we gathered and tried to shoo them away but they ended up killing 15 cows.

Twelve carcasses were taken away by the forest department. We disposed of remaining three carcasses outside the village. On Tuesday night the lions came and took away those carcasses." Amreli Deputy Conservator of Forest Sakira Begum termed it a sporadic incident. She said, "It was a one-off incident and does not prove lions visit the area often. If the visits become frequent, then it will become a subject of research and observation. However, we are making all efforts to protect humans and domestic animals." Talking about lion behavior, former senior forest official and wildlife expert Uday Vora said, "The gathering of villagers may have instigated lions to go on a cattle-killing spree. The incident needs to be studied. However, such incidents have been reported in the past.

The forest department is doing its bit to avoid such episodes." AP Singh, Chief Conservator of Forest, Junagadh Wildlife Circle, told Mirror: "We are making efforts to sensitise villagers in areas where lion sightings are on the rise. We are trying to sensitise villagers of these areas akin to those in Junagadh and Sasan who have been living in close proximity of lions for many generations."

Morari Bapu, lion photo: Forest department begins probe


Morari Bapu, lion photo: Forest department begins probe



AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat forest department has begun an investigation into allegations made by a Porbandar advocate against kathakar Morari Bapu  and forest officials about "organizing and being part of an illegal lion show" in protected limits of Girnar. The pictures of Morari Bapu — taken between October 8 and 9 in Girnarforests — with a lion in the foreground have gone viral.


Principal chief conservator of forests G K Sinha told TOI, "We are examining route permissions Morari Bapu had sought for the Girnar Parikrama. Permissions were given for certain portions of the route and not for the entire route." Forest officials said that Morari Bapu had sought permission this year for Girnar Parikrama within Girnar forest limits where pilgrim movement is allowed. The route winds through 'forest department only' and pilgrim-access areas. A senior forest official investigating the matter said that cricketer Ravindra Jadeja had got down from his jeep to take selfies in the Gir sanctuary which is roughly 48km from the Girnar sanctuary.


"We were trying to involve Morari Bapu in a campaign against plastic pollution along the Lili Parikrama route of Girnar," a senior forest officer said. "Over the past few years, we have retrieved tonnes of plastic wrappers, bottles, cases, and footwear on the route. Morari Bapu wanted to see a portion of the route to gauge the problem."


The official went on to say: "But a few members of Morari Bapu's entourage took photographs which landed them in trouble." Six trackers had accompanied Morari Bapu on the Girnar Parikrama. As for Jadeja, he had tweeted on Wednesday, "It is the same place, same story. Want to see what they are going to do now".

GR permitting overnight stay inside Gir worries foresters


GR permitting overnight stay inside Gir worries foresters



AHMEDABAD: A government resolution allowing pilgrims to stay overnight at the Kankai Mata temple inside the Gir Sanctuary is worrying forest officials and conservationists. The use of the word 'yatralu' in the GR has broadened the scope beyond members of the community, who have Kankai Mata as their family deity, and were the only persons who used to stay overnight at the temple, traditionally.


A worried forest department official said, "There are no special permits required to be obtained from the forest department to stay at night at the temple. A person entering the temple with a day permit can stay back with the same permit."


"Earlier, the permit holder visiting the temple had to return by 5pm," said the official.

Through a notification, the government had in the first week of September, allowed 50 devotees to stay overnight at the Kankai Mataji temple within the Gir Sanctuary - the last abode of the Asiatic lion.

Wildlife activists, including some members of the state board of wildlife are worried that conservation of lions may be affected by allowing pilgrims to stay overnight inside the sanctuary.

A senior officer from the forest department said, "After getting the notification, we found the word pilgrims. Initially, it was only for the community who have Kankai Mata as their family deity. But the final notification had the word 'yatralu' thus widening the scope for stay at night."

A tour operator who conducts Gir tours, when contacted, said, "The night permit can be managed easily. Come down and we will arrange for the same."


Forest officials said they had tried to implement a system where a special permit was to be issued for night stay and only after getting a letter from the temple trust. However, the office bearers of the trust objected to the procedure and hence the new system was not implemented.


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.


So far, apart from the trustees, no one, not even their family members, had been allowed to stay overnight at the temple. In the absence of clarity about who constitutes 'devotees', the deputy conservator of forests denied permissions. The forest department, which had so far made it mandatory for devotees visiting the Kankai temple to exit from the same gate, has now relaxed this norm and devotees can now leave from either gate.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Guj HC dismisses PIL challenging Ambardi lion safari proposal


Guj HC dismisses PIL challenging Ambardi lion safari proposal



Ahmedabad, Oct 11 The Gujarat High Court today dismissed a PIL challenging the state government's Ambardi lion safari proposal for tourists in and around the 400 hectares of fenced area on the eastern side of the Gir National Park.

A division bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice V M Pancholi dismissed the PIL filed by environmentalist Biren Pandya, saying that the state government has complied with all conditions and secured required permissions.

The court said the proposal for the safari was made in 2005, and in 2008, the central government had given recognition, or in-principle approval for the same. It said that even the physical infrastructure for the safari, like fencing, is in place.

The PIL had sought the court's direction to the government to set aside the plan to convert the forest area into a lion safari, as it will damage the eco-sensitive zone.

Pandya had contended in the petition that the government's proposal had received nod only from the technical committee of the Central Zoo Authority, and this cannot be construed as a final nod as the committee is not empowered for the same.

During the course of hearing, the state government had submitted before the court that it had received the final permission to start the lion safari at Ambardi from the ministry concerned, and produced an official document regarding the same, dated June 19.

It had said that a newly-appointed technical committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) had given a go-ahead to the project and a final order regarding this was passed on June 19 this year by the ministry.

The park aims to take the tourist load off the existing Gir National Park. It will have three zoo-bred lions for public viewing in the forest environment.

The forest department has also received permission to house two lionesses and a lion in the park for public viewing.

As per the latest census carried out by the state forest department in 2015, Gujarat is home to 523 Asiatic lions in the Gir forest and other areas in Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017






A Porbandar-based advocate has demanded action against renowned Kathakar Morari Bapu and few forest officials for "organising and being part of illegal lion show" in prohibited area of Gir Sanctuary near Junagadh. Morari Bapu is currently in Junagadh for a Ram Katha. Talking to Mirror, lawyer Bhanu Odedara said: "I have written to the Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court and Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) seeking action against them.

Lion shows are prohibited in Gir between June 15 and October 15. Despite this, forest officers tracked and located a lion for Morari Bapu and ten others either on October 8 or 9. The photos of the illegal lion show have gone viral on social media." In one of the photos, Morari Bapu can be seen sitting on a charpoy, surrounded by forest officials, and a lion sleeping in the middle of the road.

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'Permission turned down' 
Commenting on the matter, Chief Conservator of Forest, Junagadh, S K Mehta told Mirror: "Based on the photographs, it appears Morari Bapu had taken a halt during 'Parikrama' of Girnar for which he was granted permission. In fact, Bapu had sought permission for 'Lili Parikrama (on-foot circuit)' of Girnar which was turned down looking at his age, as it would have involved walking a very long distance.

Still probing incident 
"He then decided to do the parikrama in a vehicle using the public road which remains open to public between 6am and 6 pm. "I am still probing into the incident and if someone is found guilty then action will be taken." According to Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, harassment of a wild animal can attract fine up to Rs 25,000 and harm to a wild animal attracts maximum imprisonment of 7 years. A senior forest official said cricketer Ravindra Jadeja was recently fined for taking a selfie with a lion in the background, by getting down from the jeep. Action was also taken against the forest officials accompanying him.

Gujarat ATS arrests lion poacher in Uttar Pradesh


Gujarat ATS arrests lion poacher in Uttar Pradesh



Ahmedabad: The Gujarat anti-terrorism squad (ATS) on Monday arrested an Uttar Pradesh man wanted in lion poaching cases dating to 2007. Sarfaraz Qureshi was arrested from his home town, Khaga, near Agra. Qureshi, who had been on the run for 10 years, used push lion bones and teeth — peddling them as tiger remains — to countries such as China and Taiwan through the Nepal border in Uttar Pradesh.

In March and April of 2007, ten lions were poached from Babariya range in Amreli and Junagadh. Three cases were registered. They were probed and cracked under the supervision of the DIG CID crime at the time, Keshav Kumar, who is currently the in-charge director of ACB Gujarat.

"We had arrested 32 accused, including the members the Baheliya gang," Keshav Kumar said. "We had also arrested Circuslal, a notorious poacher from Madhya Pradesh; Keshav Kosh of Karnataka who used to handle the illegal sale of tiger bones and skins in South India; and Sarfaraz's father, Shabbir Hussain." Shabbir died in 2012, while Sarfaraz and another accused, Mohammed Ayyub Qureshi, went absconding

Keshav Kumar said that because of forensic evidence, all the accused were sentenced to three years of imprisonment and were ordered to pay a fine of Rs 10,000 each, in October 2008.

Deputy superintendent of police (DSP), ATS, Ramesh Faldu said that based on a tip-off, teams had been sent to Allahabad and Agra. "Qureshi has been handed over to CID crime for further questioning," Faldu said.


Kingpins got Rs 50 lakh per dead animal


CID crime learnt during investigation that each dead lion fetched Rs 50 lakh in the international market. "Circuslal of Madhya Pradesh, who used to finance the poachers, made Rs 2.5 lakh on every poached lion," Keshav Kumar said.


Tiger scarcity led gang to Junagadh


CID crime said that rampant poaching has reduced tiger numbers in North India. This scarcity led the gang to Junagadh. "Once skinned, it is hard to differentiate between a lion and tiger carcass without DNA testing," Keshav Kumar said. "The accused took advantage of that."

Main accused in 2007 lion poaching case held from UP


Main accused in 2007 lion poaching case held from UP



In a major breakthrough, one of the wanted accused in the Asiatic Lion poaching case of 2007, Sarfaraz Qureshi, was arrested in Fatehpur, Allahabad of Uttar Pradesh by a Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) team on Sunday.


A total of 18 people have been arrested for poaching of eight Asiatic Lions at three different sites in and around the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in 2007. The carcasses of lions were found at different places, including Babariya Range in the Gir Sanctuary and Bhunduriya village of Bhavnagar district.


However, three main accused including Sarfaraz had been absconding for past 10 years. The other two are Shabir Qureshi and Mohammad Ayub Qureshi.

On Friday while investigating the case, Gujarat ATS officials got specific information that Sarfaraz was seen in Fatehpur of Allahabad area where he was staying in a rented house.


Acting on it, a team was immediately sent to the location and the accused nabbed on Sunday. During interrogation, he revealed that Shabir was his father and he died in 2012. ATS is on a lookout for the third absconding accused Mohammad Ayub Qureshi. Officials said Sarfaraz's interrogation will help them track him down. Further investigation regarding the case is on.


·         A total of 18 people have been arrested for poaching of eight Asiatic Lions at three different sites in and around the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in 2007.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Lion translocation: Contempt petition filed in SC


Lion translocation: Contempt petition filed in SC




AHMEDABAD: Ajay Dubey, a wildlife activists from Madhya Pradesh, has filed a contempt petition in the Supreme Courtdemanding action against the government of India and the Gujarat government for not implementing the apex court order of April 2013 directing translocation of lions to Kuno Palpur from Sasan Gir.

The petition was taken up for hearing on Wednesday. "We had mentioned in the court today, and the court after hearing the counsel has decided to hold a detailed hearing on the petition in November. The apex court has thus listed the matter in November," said Varun K Chopra, advocate appearing for the petitioners in the Supreme Court.


The petitioner has highlighted the wilful non-compliance of the apex court order of April 15, 2013. The said order directed the respondents to constitute an expert committee to oversee and ensure re-introduction of Asiatic lions from Gir forest to Kuno Palpur. The respondents have not taken any action to implement the directions of the court and have instead raised technical objections challenging the very rationale of the directions, the petitioner submitted.


The petitioner submitted that the government of Gujarat through principal chief conservator of forests (Wildlife) & chief wildlife warden raised several contentions that were already dealt by the apex court in its April 2013 order. The petitioner submitted that Gujarat has contended that for translocation of lions to take place it must first be proved that Kuno is a suitable habitat in accordance with the IUCN guidelines. The petitioner submitted that a survey conducted by the Research Advisory Committee of Wildlife institute of India in 1995, Kuno Wildlife was found to be the most suitable site for reintroduction in establishing a free ranging population of Asiatic lions.


The petitioner submitted that Gujarat has in the letter raised a contention that prey density at Kuno is not adequate. The Supreme Court in its order has stated that several prey density surveys have been conducted by various experts, WII and the Government of Madhya Pradesh, including in 2004-2005, 2008 and 2012 surveys and the density was more than the existing prey base in Gir.

The government of Gujarat in a letter to the expert committee has contended that the presence of tigers in the occupied area at Kuno is one of the major obstacles for the translocation project. However according to Dr Asad Rehmani of Bombay Natural History Society, sporadic presence of tigers in Kuno is in no case detrimental to reintroduction of lions, the petitioner has submitted before the apex court.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

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 sq.km. 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 sq.km., 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



Monday, October 02, 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 Trade

Business 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. 

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-Somnathand 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.



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