Friday, January 30, 2009

“Chakra was a very popular addition to the zoo.”

Zoo mourns the loss of lion cub
Jan 30 2009 by Allison Dickinson, Chester Chronicle
CHESTER Zoo is mourning the tragic loss of their five-month-old Asiatic lion cub, Chakra.
Veterinary staff were faced with the difficult decision to put him to sleep on the evening of Friday, January 9.
The cub, born in August 2008, had been diagnosed with a developmental disorder which became more apparent as he grew and became more active.
Chakra was the second cub born to mum Asha and dad Asoka.
Kevin Buley, head of zoo programmes, said: “Chakra’s birth and subsequent bond with his parents was a cause for celebration and understandably there is now a feeling of devastation at this tragic turn of events.
“Initially, we were delighted that Asha and her cub were doing so well and did little to interfere in the bonding process.
“However it became apparent that Chakra was experiencing some difficulties which, despite the best efforts of our veterinary and keeping staff, led to this sad event.”
Kevin also paid tribute to the zoo’s dedicated carnivore team for their part in helping Asha, Asoka and Chakra to unite.
He added: “Our carnivore team, led by team leader Alan Woodward, worked tirelessly to enable the family to successfully bond and their dedication had paid dividends. The team is understandably very upset at Chakra’s death and our sympathies and support are with them.
“Chakra was a very popular addition to the zoo.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How to reach Gir National Park and Sanctuary ?

Sasan Gir, Gujarat - Gir National Park and Sanctuary
Gir Sanctuary and National ParkGir is undoubtedly the jewel of Saurashtra the dry and drought-prone region of Gujarat, Spread over 1412 Sq. Kms. of rolling land with dry deciduous forest, Gir is best known as the last wild abode of the Asiatic lion.

The Gir National Park and Sanctuary are an out-and-out heaven of biological variety. Apart from the 300 odd lions, Gir is also home to around 250 leopards, and a number of other small carnivores like the wild cat, jackal and the striped hyena.

There are also many Nilgai, Sambar, Chowsinga, Chinkara and Chital with the Chital population in the 50,000 range. Amazing isn’t it? Gir is also supposed to be home to some rare animals like the Pangolin and the Rattle python.

There are around 300 species of birds and a phenomenal 2000 + species of insects flitting about the dry scrub jungle. Some of the birds found here are - Flycatchers, Warblers, Parakeets, Kingfishers, Woodpeckers, Crested serpent eagle, Paradise flycatcher, Blossom Headed parakeet, Small blue kingfisher, Golden backed woodpecker and the Indian pitta.

Biological diversity at Gir -

Mammals: 38 Species

Reptiles: 32 Species

Amphibians: 10 Species

Birds: 300 + Species

Plants: 500 + Species

Insect Family: 2000 + Species

Sanctuary Visit -

The Sanctuary can be visited only during the daytime between sunrise and sunset. Sanctuary visit permits are issued at the Reception Center on request and after filling the necessary form. Guides and vehicles are available on hire at the Reception Center on first come first served basis. The permits are issued at around 6:30 am and people and agents begin queuing up as early as 5:00am. We reached the Reception Center at 8:00am though :)

Entry Fee to Gir Sanctuary

I felt that there was no order at the Reception Centre what with people jostling about, pushing each other. There were no proper instructions put up as to the procedure of obtaining permits and the timings. People staying at Sinh Sadan, the Forest Department Guest House, which is in the same premises as the Reception Centre were up early and formed a queue to obtain the Permits. The agents and other travelers who were staying elsewhere had formed a queue outside the closed gate of the Sinh Sadan. This gate was opened only at 5:30am and people rushed in like mad.

We learnt that are a fixed number or Vehicular permits allowed in a day and half of these could be booked in advance. Out of the remaining, few are reserved for the DFO’s.

The rest are available for current booking – The number of people in the queue outnumbered the number of permits available. It was jostle, push, and fights. We stayed put in a corner just watching all this unfold. Each vehicle can seat a minimum of six people. Luckily, we found a family of four and clubbed with them to book a Vehicle.

A guide is must on all the vehicles that go into the sanctuary. Guide fees have to be paid directly to the guides.

Permit Issue Timings :

16th Oct to 15th Feb

Permit Issue Timing: 06.30 - 10.30 hrs

Sanctuary Visit: 07.00 - 12.00 hrs

Permit Issue Timing: 15.00 - 17.00 hrs

Sanctuary Visit: 15.00 - Sunset

16th Feb to 15th June

Permit Issue Timing: 06.30 - 11.00 hrs

Sanctuary Visit: 07.00 - 12.00 hrs

Permit Issue Timing: 16.00 - 17.30 hrs

Sanctuary Visit: 16.00 - Sunset

These were the timings when we visited Gir in December 2008. Please check with the officials when you plan to visit though.

As mentioned above there are two time zones to visit the Gir Sanctuary – 7 am to 12 pm

and 3pm – Sunset.

There are 8 possible routes for the Sanctuary visit. Not sure if visitors are allowed to choose a route.

The visit to the Sanctuary lasts around 3-4 hours and lion spotting depends on the season and your luck :) We spotted a lot of deer, Sambar, chital but no lions.


Sinh Sadan is the Forest Department Guest House. It is located very near to the Sasan Railway Station. Just a 5 minute walk. The bookings for the Guest House Rooms are done in the office of the Guest House Manager.

You can book in advance by writing to The Guest House Manager, Sinh Sadan, Sasan - 362 135along with a DD, for one day room charges, in favor of the Guest House Manager.

Sinh Sadan was a well-kept place. There are AC and Non AC rooms. There is a Dining Hall too. You need to place your order a little before mealtime.

There are many langurs on the premises of Sinh Sadan. However, they were not coming close to the humans - they were busy munching on the lovely rose plants in the Sinh Sadan garden. There were lot of squirrels too and these did not seem scared of human company.

How to reach Sasan?

Ahmedabad - Sasan : 408 kms

Rajkot - Sasan : 165 kms

Junagadh - Sasan : 60 kms

Keshod - Sasan : 60 kms

Veraval - Sasan : 45 kms.

Diu - Sasan : 110 kms.

Nearest Airport, Keshod : 60 kms

We took a train to Sasan as the train chugs down the jungle. We spotted herds of deer during the train journey. The train travel through Gir forests was a wonderful and unforgettable experience.

Places to Visit in Sasan

Crocodile Rearing Centre - Situated in the Forest Department office complex this centre was created to rear crocodile hatchling to be subsequently released in the wild. There are some crocodiles for public viewing at the centre. Nothing much, but since it is at a walking distance from Sinh Sadan, you can visit it.

Gir Interpretation Zone (GIZ) – It is located in Devaliya, around 12 kms from Sasan. It is a fenced area of 4.12 Sq. Kms, which represents typical Gir habitats and depicts model wildlife management practices.

Gir Orientation Centre - located in the premises of the Sasan Guest House campus provides basic factual and scientific information about Gir with the help of Interactive Photographs, Paintings and models.

Camera Fees for the Sanctuary Visit

Professional Photography (Per day / Camera)Still Photography (8 MP and above) - Indians 100 Rs, Foreign Nationals 10 $Documentary - Indians 5000 Rs, Foreign Nationals 500 $Feature Film - Indians 25000 Rs, Foreign Nationals 1000 $No camera fee for amateur photography by visitors, provided the camera is less than 8 MP.Security DepositsDocumentary - Indians 15000 Rs, Foreign Nationals 1000 $Feature Film - Indians 50000 Rs, Foreign Nationals 2000 $For more information contact

Deputy Conservator of Forests

Wildlife Divison, Sasan-Gir,

Dist. - Junagadh, Gujarat 362 135


Phone: +91 02877 285541

Fax: +91 02877 285641


Guest House Manager

Sinh Sadan, Sasan Gir,

Dist. Junagadh, Pin 362135

Gujarat, India

Phone: +91 02877 285540

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

SC clears Amreli lion park

SC clears Amreli lion park
10 Jan 2009, 2255 hrs IST, TNN
NEW DELHI: A Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam okayed setting up of Ambardi Wildlife Interpretation Park in Amreli district, Gujarat, after state counsel Hemantika Wahi said the in-principle approval of Central Zoo Authority(CZA) for the park had been obtained.

She said, “The project would include a safari, an orientation centre and natural education facilities while keeping wild animals in natural conditions. But, the most important function of the park would be to help in the ongoing captive conservation breeding of Asiatic lions. Because of a shrinking prey base and growing lion population, many lions were found straying into Amreli district.”,prtpage-1.cms

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cubs remain in Oklahoma City Zoo’s pride

Cubs remain in Oklahoma City Zoo’s pride
November 5th, 2008 • RelatedFiled Under
Filed Under: Oklahoma City Zoo
Four lion cubs were born at the Oklahoma City Zoo one year ago this week, and they’re still drawing crowds.
The lions — Malaika, Zari, Kalliope and Xerxes — are playful, healthy and popular with zoo visitors, said Brian Aucone, the zoo’s director of animal management.
The cubs weighed about 3 pounds at birth, Aucone said, and now they’re each about 115 pounds.
The cubs have the same father but come from two mothers. Two were born Nov. 4 last year. The other two were born two days later. Aside from being close to one another, the lions also are more interested in their zookeepers than other lions in captivity, Aucone said. All four lions were delivered by Caesarean section, and keepers hand-fed them for several months. Now even as they get older, the cubs like to see their keepers and become excited when they hear their keys jingle.
The fate of the cubs is still up in the air, Aucone said. They may be moved to another zoo as part of a national breeding plan, but they may stay at the Oklahoma City Zoo.

Male African lion dies at Buffalo Zoo

Lion known as “Simba” and “Apollo” was 19.
Vic Baker
BUFFALO, NY ( - The circle of life has claimed a popular inhabitant of the Buffalo Zoo. A male African Lion known by the names “Simba” and “Apollo” passed away Friday at the age of 19.
Male lions rarely live past 16 years in the wild but can survive longer in captivity. His keepers say Simba lived a long, healthy life at the Zoo, he had been receiving medication for age-related osteoarthritis for more than a year. As his health continued to deteriorate, Zoo officials made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize the animal.

“My heart goes out to the keeper staff who raised and cared for him for the past 19 years. He was a majestic animal with a sweet disposition,” said Zoo president Donna M. Fernandes, Ph.D.

Simba was born at the Buffalo Zoo on September 8, 1989 to mother, Nasibu, and father, Mason. To ensure proper development, two keepers hand-reared him. He had been housed with Isiolo, a 19-year-old female, for the past 18 years. One of his favorite pastimes included laying in the sunshine and hiding below the viewing window by the Reptile House and suddenly jumping up to surprise visitors.

Simba was very popular with Zoo personnel and visitors, and he will be greatly missed.

Amongst the most regal animals on earth,

Amongst the most regal animals on earth,
the Asiatic Lion or Asian Lion is one of the two subspecies of lions extant. Slightly smaller than its African cousin, the Asiatic Lion is under dire threat as a subspecies and is struggling for survival. Its origin as a subspecies is relatively recent considering evolutionary terms, occurring around one hundred thousand years ago. Panthera Leo Persica, the great cat once roamed over a range extending from Greece to South Asia, but relentless human persecution has meant it is now restricted to a single reserve in the west Indian state of Gujarat, by name of Gir Forest.

Apart from size, the other features that distinguish the Asian Lion from African Lion include a bushier coat, smaller mane that exposes their ears, a central skin fold that runs across the belly and longer tufts of hair at elbows and tip of tail. Weight is in the range of four to five hundred pounds for males and two hundred and fifty to three hundred and fifty pounds for females. Body length is between six to seven feet excluding a three foot tail, with females being smaller, though larger individuals of around nine feet have been recorded.

Asiatic Lions live in dry deciduous forests and scrub lands of the isolated Gir Forest of slightly over one thousand square kilometers. Between three hundred to three hundred and fifty individual cats exist in this sanctuary in an overcrowded environment, often straying outside park boundaries and coming into conflict with locals. Prey includes Spotted Deer, Sambhar, Goat, Nilgai, Buffaloes and even some smaller animals. Cattle are often attacked and killed and so are camels, bringing them under ire of locals. Attacks on humans are more frequent these days owing to the shrinking habitat and growing numbers of lions, pushing them more often into bordering human territories. Social animals, Asian Lions live in smaller pride units than their African counterparts. A couple of females live with one to two males who are somewhat solitary and come together when the family dines. The lesser numbers in prides in these lions are often attributed to the smaller prey animals that are available to these hunters, making it difficult for the social cats to share in large numbers. Hunting is cooperative and chiefly done by females, with males joining at times to bring down bigger prey like buffalo.

Also known as Persian Lions (owing to their period of existence in Persia) and Indian Lions, these majestic big cats have only one sanctuary on the planet, the Gir Protected Area of Indian Gujarat. Millions of dollars have been spent in creating a separate reserve in Kuno-Palpur National Park in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh but the State Government of Gujarat refuses to lend a few of its lions to populate the new sanctuary which is now believed to be ready to receive its first batch of the great cats. It is widely believed that the Gujarat Government wants to keep its monopoly on the tourist trade by keeping its troubled lions jammed in the only place in the world where they can be sighted in the wild, thus bringing the entire subspecies into risk through inbreeding. Furthermore, a single epidemic or environmental catastrophe can wipe out the entire wild population of the last lions of Asia.

Asiatic lions begin to mate with the coming of winter in October and November. Pregnancy lasts near three and a half months (one hundred and three days) following which a litter of three to four cubs is born. The young are introduced to a solid diet at three months and begin hunting at nine months of age. They gain independence when they are an year old. Maturity is reached between three to four years of age. A female can successfully reproduce once every two years. Lifespan is up to seventeen years in the wild and twenty four years in captivity.

Nearly a century ago rampant hunting had led to the disappearance of lions from everywhere except the Gir Forest where only a handful remained. At that time, the then local ruler of Junagadh, perhaps under advice from the then Viceroy of India, placed a ban on hunting of lions. The ban has continued since then and the lion population has increased over the years. However, the threats they face today are plentiful. Chief among them is the fact that they have limited genetic variability since they have only originated from a few dozen ancestors. This makes them particularly vulnerable to disease. Another problem are the local people who are cattle owners and are having an adverse impact on wild prey population through overgrazing of their animals. Plus there are thousands of wells in the forest dug by locals into which the lions frequently fall and die. Only recently has the government started to raise their boundary walls through collaboration with NGOs. Many farmers have erected illegal electrical fences to protect their fields from herbivores. A number of lions have thus died as a result of accidental electrocution from these high voltage barricades. Recently it was reported that a tribe of poachers consisting of hundreds of people has camped next to the lion sanctuary. The same individuals are reported to be responsible for the killing of tigers that has resulted in the plummeting of Bengal Tiger population in India. Officials are taking action and forest guards are on the vigil but lions continue to be shot and poisoned regularly, resulting in the loss of dozens of these extremely rare animals annually. To add to the misery of the big cats, roads and even railway tracks have been laid across the park, meaning that the already inbreeding lions are forced to live in even smaller fragmented pockets.
The rapid expansion of India, according to many, has led to the weakening of authority of the central Government over its provinces. Both the tiger and the vanishing lions of India are suffering as a result. Unless a less selfish approach is adapted by the Gujarat state and separate reserves are populated by the Asiatic Lions, the fate of these spectacular cats hangs in the balance, their current classification being Critically Endangered.