Friday, March 24, 2017

Forest staff, lions face hostilities of people staying near Gir

23/3/2017

Forest staff, lions face hostilities of people staying near Gir

THE TIMES OF INDIA

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/rajkot/forest-staff-lions-face-hostilities-of-people-staying-near-gir/articleshow/57780219.cms

Rajkot: Lion tracker Dharmendra Vala, who was allegedly killed early this month in Gir-East division for not allowing illegal lion show, is a glaring example of how the ground staff of forest department are facing hostilities of people living in the fringe areas of the protected Gir forest. Same is the case with the endangered lion which is at the receiving end of local villagers.
 



According to sources, there are over two dozen instances in the last three years, wherein forest officials have been assaulted or cases have been lodged against them when they went to protect forest and wildlife.


Moreover, the farmers' outfit has openly warned forest officials that they will not be responsible if lions die in their farms after being electrocuted or due to unnatural causes. "They tell us to cordon lions inside the sanctuary. Government has entertained many 'illegitimate' demands from people around Gir. Now, people, who are accused under Indian Forest Act and Wildlife Protection Act, lodge false counter complaints against forest staff," an officer alleged.
 


"As a result of assault and fabricated plaints against forest guards, foresters, range forest officers (RFO) and assistant conservator of forests (ACF), morale of the ground staff in Gir, considered as one of the best in the country, has gone down significantly," said a forest officer, against whom a complaint has been filed by local a villager.

 

"Neighbours of lions in Gir are turning hostile. They consider lions as a source of income through illegal lion shows. Those who try to prevent them have to face the music. Some villagers do not even hesitate to kill the lions," said a senior forest official, on condition of anonymity.

 

"A few months ago, a team went to rescue a lioness that was surrounded by villagers, after it killed two bullocks close to the Gir Sanctuary. The mob gathered at the spot pelted stone on forest staff. People in the mob were armed with axes and other sharp weapons and wanted to kill the lioness. We could hardly save the lioness and in the process six of our staff members were hurt by the mob," he said.

                                                                     


Foresters also gave examples of another type of hostility, where in Ghodhavadi settlement village, forest ground staff were transferred for no fault of theirs.

 


"A senior forest officer pulled up ground staff in presence of villagers in Ghodhavadi village. The support of a senior forest officer prompted villagers to dig 11 bore wells within hours inside the sanctuary area, which according to law is illegal," said a forest official, adding that those who break environment laws get state cover and those who protect it, get punished.

 

"Call it an irony of sorts, as no officer including from the IFS officer, wants to work in Gir. This is a serious matter and government needs resolve the issue, especially for the ground staff," added another forest official.



 

Chink in Gir armour: 45% field staff posts lying vacant

23/3/2017

Chink in Gir armour: 45% field staff posts lying vacant

THE TIMES OF INDIA

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/chink-in-gir-armour-45-field-staff-posts-lying-vacant/articleshow/57783952.cms

JUNAGADH: The state government seems to be taking protection of Gujarat's pridethe Asiatic lions very lightly. Figures obtained from the forest department show that nearly 45% of the total sanctioned post of administrative and crucial field staff in the four division of Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park are lying vacant.

 

The field staff of Gir East, Gir West, Sasan and Special Task Force, that is essential for protection of the endangered lion, are working with nearly half its sanctioned strength. The Junagadh forest division that includes Girnar Sanctuary also faces the same problem.

A senior IFS officer said, "Currently, the major concern for us is shortage of crucial ground level staff in all four divisions. Gir forest is 10% of state's total protected area but has the least number of staff." The field staff members include assistant conservator of forest, range forest officer, forest guard and others.

 

"Gir East (Dhari) known for number of human-wildlife conflicts, lions venturing into private lands and illegal lion shows, is facing acute staff shortage," he added.

 


However, top officials of forest department claimed that they were in process of recruiting forest guards, which would ultimately ease the situation."We are in the process of recruiting around 1,500 forest guards and once they are in the field, staff shortage situation will reduce. Also, a batch of RFOs and ACFs are under training and they will soon join the department," G K Sinha, principal chief conservator of forests, (wildlife), told TOI.

 

"Further many posts will fall vacant as number of staff are set to retire soon.In important Dalkhaniya, Hadala, Tulshishyam, Chhodavadi and Devaliya have no RFOs'' said a forest official.

 


The Special Task Force, which was set up after lion poaching incident in 2007, has only four members against sanctioned post of 24. "The task force was created to solve wildlife crime and other important protection aspects in greater Gir but government made it almost `useless'. Government knew years ago that number of staff would retire, but it did not start recruitment and as a result situation is grim," said a forest officer.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

160 lions die in Gir in 2 yrs

22/3/2017

160 lions die in Gir in 2 yrs

THE Tribune

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/160-lions-die-in-gir-in-2-yrs/380445.html

 

Manas Dasgupta

Ahmedabad, March 21

The Gujarat Forest Department has admitted that more than 160 Asiatic lions have died in the Gir forest in the last two years since the 2015 census put their population at record 523.

 

This included death of 95 lions from April 2015 to March 2016, and another 67 from April last year to date. What was more shocking of the 95 deaths recorded last year was that 25 died unnaturally, including of electrocution by coming in contact with live wires put up by farmers to save their crops from herbivorous animals, and falling into wells left open by farmers in their fields, the department revealed in a reply to a query under the RTI Act.

 

(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)

 

Almost all unnatural deaths were recorded in the areas outside the protected sanctuary zone in the periphery of the villages falling within Gir forest as under pressure of increasing population and shortage of prey, a number of Asiatic lions fanned outside the sanctuary zone and into the habituated villages. The wildlife experts said some of the carcasses of the lions were found in such highly decomposed conditions that it was even difficult to ascertain the exact causes of their death.

 

The high death rate of the lions concerns environmentalists who have urged the state government to expand the protected zone to cover the wastelands and some other areas in the periphery, particularly because the state government was opposed to the idea of shifting a few species to Kuno-Palpur forests in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh to create a second home for the Asiatic lions.

 

Meanwhile, a man-eater sloth bear, which had strayed out of the forest areas in Danta in Banaskantha district in north Gujarat and killed three persons besides injuring four others, was killed by sharp-shooters in a joint operation by the foresters from Danta, Gir Sanctuary and even Delhi who were rushed to the area this afternoon after the locals raised the alarm.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Kuno not needed; Gujarat has achieved its goals, hints paper

18/3/2017

Kuno not needed; Gujarat has achieved its goals, hints paper

THE TIMES OF INDIA

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/kuno-not-needed-gujarat-has-achieved-its-goals-hints-paper/articleshow/57696905.cms

 

AHMEDABAD: The 12-member expert committee set up by the Supreme Court to oversee transalocation of lion from Gir to Kuno-Palpur in Madhya Pradesh, has stated that Kuno Palpur was suitable for translocation.
 


However, a research paper published by National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) member HS Singh seems to imply that Kuno site had become unnecessary as its objectives had been achieved by Gujarat.

 

Singh's research paper says that the Kuno site was designed to increase the lion population beyond 500 and to improve the position of Asiatic Lions from 'Critically Endangered' to 'Endangered' in the IUCN Red List.



Both these objectives that were planned two decades back have already been achieved by Gujarat through its conservation practices.
 


The research paper further states that the population of lion is growing only because the people of Gujarat take pride in them and feel that they own these lions. Conservation of wildlife is deep-rooted in the culture and tradition of Saurashtra, the paper says.



However, despite their growing population, the lions face threat from development of industries and ports, mining activities, and rail and high-speed roads in the coastal areas. The increased frequency and speed of goods trains on Pivavav-Rajula line is a new threat as 10 lions were killed during 2013-15.

 

The paper also states that industrial and mining activities around Veraval coast had forced the lions out of the area.

 


Pipavav port and related activities near Kaj wetlands in Kodinar taluka are a source of disturbance to a group of lions settled there. Further, change in land-use pattern and disappearance of wastelands and community lands are other problems affecting the lions.

 


Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced conversion of six state roads as National Highways. Of these new highways, the Una-Chotila highway passes close to the sanctuary. The research papers states that the road network, and widening and converting some of them as high-speed roads are a matter of concern for lion conservationists.

 

People around the Gir forests and some of the satellite areas are aware of the habits of the lions and have developed an understanding to live with them. Villagers in some of the new satellite areas have little understanding of the behaviour of the lion. They need to be educated, the paper says.

Monday, March 20, 2017

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Lion found dead in Gir West

15/3/2017

Lion found dead in Gir West

THE TIMES OF INDIA

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/rajkot/lion-found-dead-in-gir-west/articleshow/57636093.cms

RAJKOT: Mystery shrouds the death of a 10-year-old lion whose body was found in Ghantvad round of Jamwala Forest Range in Gir-West division three days ago.

 


Pradeep Singh, deputy conservator of forest, Gir west, said, "The lion was aged between nine years old and 12 years old. We have sent the viscera for forensic analysis. We are also investigating circumstantial evidence to ascertain the cause of death. There were no external injuries on the lion's body but we are investigating all aspects."

 

Meanwhile, there is little headway in the electrocution of the six-year-old lioness that was pregnant with two cubs in February. The lioness was dumped in Hiran River, reportedly to destroy evidence, after it was electrocuted in a farm fencing.

 

RTI exposes illegal mining around Gir

16/3/2017

RTI exposes illegal mining around Gir

THE TIMES OF INDIA

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/rajkot/rti-exposes-illegal-mining-around-gir/articleshow/57655443.cms

KODINAR: Illegal miners seem to have got a complete free hand in digging near the Asiatic lions' last abode — Gir Wildlife Sanctuary. If data revealed under the RTI Act is any indication, the Supreme Court order banning mining, both legal and illegal in a 10km periphery around the sanctuary pending clearance of final eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) proposal, has been flagrantly violated.

                                                 

Between April 2016 and February 2017, the geology and mining department had lodged 22 FIRs for illegal mining in the close vicinity of the sanctuary. "The estimated value of illegal mining in these 22 cases was pegged at Rs 11.29 crore. But this is just the tip of an iceberg as illegal mining is rampant around Gir Sanctuary and adversely affecting forest and wildlife,'' said Balu Socha, an environmental activist based in Kodinar, who had sought the information.

 


Earlier, the Centre had notified an area up to 17.9km from the boundary of the 
Mitiyala Wildlife Sanctuary, 16.3km from the boundary of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and up to 14.98km from the Paniya Wildlife Sanctuary. Now, the ESZ covers only 207 sq km of 114 villages in nine talukas covering three districts as against the original 3,328.8139 sq km extending to around 291 villages. Environmental activists alleged that government has given in to illegal miners who have high business stakes around the Gir Sanctuary.

 

Data also revealed that most illegal mining cases detected were near Ghantvad, Jamwala, Amodra, Surva, Ankolvadi, Arithiya and Bhiyal, which are all prime habitats of lions and other wildlife and fall under the ESZ. A senior forest department officer told TOI, "We have been regularly writing to the district administration in Gir-Somnath about illegal mining with data acquired using the GPS. Few months ago, we provided all details of such activities in Harmadiya, Ghantvad and Ebhalvad village around the Gir Sanctuary. We have no power to stop them but no such action was taken by the geology and mining department."

PIL against wind farm near Gir forest

9/3/2017

PIL against wind farm near Gir forest

THE TIMES OF INDIA

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/pil-against-wind-farm-near-gir-forest/articleshow/57542957.cms

 

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat high court on Wednesday sought reply from the state government in response to a PIL objecting to establishment of a windmill farm in the vicinity of reserved forest in Brihad Gir area in Amreli district.

Wildlife activist Biren Padhya has filed the PIL seeking HC intervention in the issue. He submitted that the forest department and residents of Bhekhra and Senjal village near Savarkundala have time and again informed Amreli district collector as well as the company that installs windmills - Inox Wind Infrastructure Services Ltd - to stop work.

 

The district authority did not respond to the requests to save wildlife in the area, which has got sizeable number of Asiatic lions, leopards and other schedule 1 animals. They claimed that the construction of windmills and movement of heavy vehicles would cause irreparable damage to wildlife in the area.

 


The petitioner has also submitted that the government wasteland and gaucher land was allotted to one Gujarat Floro Chemicals Ltd, which could not have transferred the land to a private party for wind farm. The petitioner has also alleged that the company has not obtained any NOC from the forest authorities for establishment of 
wind farm though it is very close to the forest area.

 

The petitioner has claimed that the laxity shown by the authorities is not in consonance with the observations made by the Supreme Court while deciding the case of translocation of the lions to Madhya Pradesh. He also submitted that 301 lions died in last five years and 168 of total 523 lions live outside the Gri sanctuary. Such activities, if allowed in the vicinity of the forest area, would prove disastrous for the Asiatic lions and other animals.

 


This case is to be heard further on March 29.

 

Albino Deer draws attraction at Gujarat’s Gir

17/3/2017

Albino Deer draws attraction at Gujarat's Gir

hindustantimes

http://www.hindustantimes.com/videos/india-news/albino-deer-draws-attraction-at-gujarat-s-gir/video-TUhMJVCpWZda7DpDZuZ9hM.html

hough Gujarat's Gir Forest is world-known for rearing Asiatic Lion, this time the visitors are flocking to get a glimpse of two white-coloured 'albino deer' that have been spotted in the forest premises. The two fawns are progeny of Sambar breed. Albino is a genetic disorder under which the pigments of skin, hair and eyes change within a species. (ANI)

Asiatic lion population in Gir forests up fourfold in last five decades: study

20/3/2017

Asiatic lion population in Gir forests up fourfold in last five decades: study

Live mint

http://www.livemint.com/Politics/3kaVvzKF4dOoebk9hTQcpK/Number-of-Asiatic-lions-in-Gir-region-up-fourfold-in-last-fi.html

The number of Asiatic lions in and around Gujarat's Gir forests has increased in the last five decades, says an analysis published in India-based Current Science journal

 

New Delhi: The lion population in and around the Gir forest in Gujarat has witnessed a fourfold increase in the five decades till 2015, according to a report published in scientific journal Current Science last week. That's the good news.

 

The not-so-good news, the report concludes, is that massive infrastructure projects such as railways and high-speed road corridors, as well as industrial, port and mining activities, are beginning to affect the only habitat of the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) and are a major cause of concern for their future.

"During the last five decades (1965–2015), the approach for the Asiatic lion's conservation is one of the best efforts in the world. Unlike other super predators, the number of lions has increased fourfold and (that of) wild ungulates by over thirteen-fold in the Gir forest," said the analysis authored by H.S. Singh.

"Expansion and consolidation of the Gir protected area, habitat of the Asiatic lion, and response of prey and predator to the management and dispersion trend of lions outside the Gir forests are interesting and noteworthy. The distribution range of lions has also expanded to a large landscape in four districts in the state," the report said.

In May 2015, the Gujarat government released its latest lion census figures, which said Gir's Asiatic lion population had grown around 27%, from 411 in 2010 to 523 in 2015.

Asiatic lions, found only in Gujarat, have been classified as an endangered species.

Also Read | No second home for lions even as numbers grow

The study explained that the Gir wildlife sanctuary, the first protected area (PA) in Gujarat, was established in 1965 to conserve the Asiatic lion. Subsequently, the core area of the sanctuary was declared a national park, while the sanctuary was expanded to cover peripheral forests. The adjoining area, an integral part of the Gir forest in Amreli district, was declared as the Pania sanctuary. The wastelands and community lands around Gir were notified as protected forests. A patch of forest near Gir in Mitiyala, historically known as a lion habitat, was declared a sanctuary for further consolidation of its habitat. In 2007, Girnar, a lion satellite area, was also declared as a sanctuary. Five PAs—Gir national park, Gir sanctuary, Pania sanctuary, Mitiyala sanctuary and Girnar sanctuary—covering 1,621 sq. km, are presently managed as the Asiatic lion's habitat.

"In two decades (1995-2015), more than 40% of the total number of lions was spotted outside the Gir landscape. The prey population, predation behaviour of the lion and acceptance of the lion as an honourable animal by the villagers indicate that the present trend may continue in the near future as well," the study added.

However, it expressed concern at the massive pace of infrastructure development.

"The development of industries and ports, mining activities, rails and high-speed roads in the coastal area have already impacted the lions. The increased frequency and speed of goods trains in Pipavav-Rajula line has posed a new threat as 10 lions were killed during 2013-15," it noted.

"The change in land-use pattern and disappearance of wastelands and community lands are other issues of concern," the analysis added.

"The increasing population of lions will not sustain in Gujarat in coming years. Not just lion-human conflicts but other problems too, like unnatural deaths and genetic disorders, will surface. Keeping lions only in Gujarat is also against international norms," said Ajay Dubey, secretary of non-governmental organization Prayatna, which has long campaigned for moving lions out of Gujarat.

The Supreme Court, in an April 2013 order, directed the Union environment ministry to shift some of Gujarat's lions to the Kuno wildlife sanctuary in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh. But the order has not been implemented so far.

 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

When will Asiatic lions roar in Palpur-Kuno, asks Congress

1/3/2017

When will Asiatic lions roar in Palpur-Kuno, asks Congress

THE TIMES OF INDIA

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/when-will-asiatic-lions-roar-in-palpur-kuno-asks-cong/articleshow/57400099.cms

BHOPAL: Congress raised the issue of translocation of Asiatic lions from Gujarat's Gir to Palpur-Kuno in Madhya Pradesh in the Assembly on Tuesday while asking the reason for the delay.



"Why are 
Asiatic lions still not being brought to Palpur-Kunoand what has been the communication by the state government to bring them here?" Congress MLA from Lahar seat Dr Govind Singh asked during the Question Hour.

 

In reply, minister for forests Dr Gauri Shankar Shejwar told the House, "The Madhya Pradesh government is not the hindrance to bringing Gir lions to Palpur-Kuno."


Even after evacuating 344 sq km area for Palpur-Kuno sanctuary and an additional 900 sq km of buffer zone, the Gujarat government is still not prepared to part with its Asiatic lions. Incidentally, both the states are BJP-ruled.



The question of relocation of lions had come from senior Congress MLA from Vijaypur constituency Ram Niwas Rawat but since the latter was absent, Singh pursued the query on his behalf.



The Congress argued that in December last year, a Supreme Court-constituted committee and the Madhya Pradesh government held a meeting, after which the panel found the environment at Palpur-Kuno sanctuary fit for the Asiatic lions.

 

The MLA alleged that people had to be shifted while their livelihood suffered after agricultural land was acquired for the sanctuary. "People lost their homes and their agricultural land was gone. So, what is the reason that the Gir lions are still not coming to the state?" Singh asked.


Shejwar contended that the matter lies with the Union government and the apex court-appointed committee. "We are just complying with the orders," the minister said.

 

Forest department officials said that only political will is required for translocating the Gujarat lions. "Madhya Pradesh has addressed all concerns raised for over a decade by Gujarat officials with regard to the issue," a senior forest department official said.

 


The state wants at least two lion prides, which means a total of around 12 lions, including cubs. Principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) Jitendra Agrawal said that the state is continuing its efforts to get the big cats, but the matter appears to be in cold storage as of now. "We have addressed all their queries," he said.

 


A meeting of chief wildlife wardens of all states was held in New Delhi on February 15-16. This is where Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat wildlife wardens were to discuss the translocation. However, Gujarat officials did not turn up at the meet and at present, there is no communication between the two states, sources in the forest department said.

 


"We have given enough time to the Gujarat government. Despite a standing order from the Supreme Court, they are reluctant. Gujarat will have to say 'yes' or 'no' this time so that we can do the needful," said a wildlife officer.

 

 

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