Saturday, July 4, 2009

Will CM gift forest land to industry?

Will CM gift forest land to industry?
DNA By Kapil Dave
In a major setback to decades of forest and wildlife conservation efforts in Gujarat, the state government may decide today to de-notify hundreds of hectares of forest land in four sanctuary areas of Gujarat. If chief minister Narendra Modi approves the Gujarat Wildlife Board's agenda, there will be a severe threat of industrial and human activity in Gujarat's four prime forest areas - the Wild Ass Sanctuary in the Little Rann of Kutch, Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Velavadar Black Buck Sanctuary and Narayan Sarovar Bird Sanctuary.

Highly placed sources told DNA on Friday that influential industrial houses are likely to have their way if the forest department and the Board don't vehemently oppose the move. Highly placed sources expressed profound sorrow about the fact that "Gujarat's wildlife is facing major problems like poaching and increased human and industrial activity, but the Board is pressing for discussion on 11 issues, of which a majority are proposals of industries to take away forest land."

The board has proposed diversion of 89.74 hectare land in the Wild Ass Sanctuary for the power transmission line of Adani Power Ltd and 241.59 hectare land for Power Grid Corporation's transmission lines. It has also proposed diversion of 7.28 hectare land for Usha Breco Ltd for ropeway construction in Girnar Sanctuary; 4.40 hectare land from Velavadar black buck Sanctuary for Gujarat State Road Development Corporation (GSRDC) for construction of a six-lane Sarkhej-Vataman-Bhavnagar central spine road; 0.315 ha land diversion for Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd for laying of fibre optic lines in Balaram-Ambaji Sanctuary, 0.45 ha land diversion for Vodafone Gujarat Limited for laying of fibre optics in Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary and 0.45 ha land diversion for Reliance Communication Gujarat Ltd in Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary.

Ironically, the state government on Friday admitted in the assembly that because of increasingly serious man-animal conflict in Gir and Dangs forests, 23 people had lost their lives in the last two years. It also admitted during the ongoing assembly session to charges of misuse of land allotted in Gir.Highly placed sources in the government said, "The State Wildlife Board will hold a meeting, to be chaired by chief minister Narendra Modi, on July 4 at the Secretariat. The main agenda of the meeting is to give land in protected sanctuaries to various private companies for commercial use." The other items on the agenda include a presentation on wildlife, formation of Leo-genetic lab for Gir lions, modern communication facilities for the management and protection of the animals in Gir and erecting of walls on the two sides of the road in Gir sanctuary.

However, the forest department prefers to remain quiet about the move to de-notify the forest land which it is supposed to protect! Principal chief conservator of forests ML Sharma was not reachable, while PCCF (wildlife) Pradeep Khanna refused to comment

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica)

The Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica)

The Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica) is a subspecies of the lion which survives today only in the Gir Forest of Gujarat, India where it is also known as the Indian lion or Persian lion. In 2005, the Gujarat government reported that 359 Asiatic lions were sighted in the Gir forest The Asiatic lions once ranged from the Mediterranean to the north-eastern parts of the Indian subcontinent, but excessive hunting, water pollution and decline in natural prey reduced their habitat. Historically, Asiatic lions were classified into three kinds – Bengal, Arabian and Persian lions. Asiatic lion are smaller and less aggressive than their African counterparts. Asiatic lions are similar to African forms, though they have less swollen tympanic bullae, shorter postorbital constriction, and usually have divided infraorbital foramen. The colour ranges from reddish-brown to a highly mottled black to sandy cinnamon grey.
In adult males, the maximum skull length is 330-340 mm, while that of females is 266-277 mm. They reach a weight of 150-220 Kg. for the males and 100-150 Kg. (n=2) for the females. The scientific record for the longest male is of 292 cm, while the maximum height to the shoulders reported is of 107 cm. The Captain Smee hunted a male of 268 cm long, which weight 222.3 kg, excluding the entrails. The largest known wild male, in the hunting records, was exactly 3 m (9.9 ft) in length.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Scope of a second home for Gir lions remains mired

New Delhi (IANS): India's Asiatic lions are the most vulnerable of all the big cats as they live in a single area in Gujarat, making them prone to diseases as well as other threats, and yet calls for creating a second home by the scientific community have been repeatedly ignored, say experts.

The sprawling Gir National Park in western India is home to some 350 Asiatic lions, the last refuge for these cats. In the past, the lions had roamed in almost the entire Central Asia.
The Wildlife Institute of India (WII), a leading scientific organisation, recommended the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh for setting up a second home for the Gir lions.
But the Gujarat government rejected the proposal, saying it lacks scientific backing and security.
Experts believe Kuno in central India is part of the lion's historical home range.

Gujarat says if Madhya Pradesh cannot protect their tigers, how can they protect the lions.

Supreme Court lawyer Ritwick Dutta, who has taken up the case filed by the Biodiversity Conservation Trust of India, a Delhi-based NGO, in the Supreme Court for transfer of the lions, told IANS: "If the issue is not resolved, there would be a huge economic loss."

"The 24 villages that were inside the Kuno reserve have been resettled elsewhere to make room for the Gir lions and an estimated Rs.15 crore has been spent on the project," said Mr. Dutta.

However, with the recent admission by the Madhya Pradesh government that there are no tigers left in the Panna reserve, it might just assure the Gujarat government of its case.

But Faiyaz Khudsar, a wildlife biologist who heads the NGO and has worked in Kuno for the lion relocation programme, says, "Wild animals confined to a single area can spell death knell to their long-term survival, and this has been proved by science."

"Some years ago in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, at least 25 per cent of the African lion population there was wiped out due to the canine distemper disease, (a fatal viral disease) and the rest of the lions fell sick. This shows how a single epidemic can wipe out the entire lion population in the park," said Mr. Khudsar.

The Serengeti Park, a Unesco World Heritage site, is spread across more than 14,000 sq km, whereas Gir has an area of just over 1,000 sq km. Despite the sprawling size of Serengeti, the African lions fell to the onslaught of the viral disease, he maintains.

Besides, inbreeding over a period of time can render a population confined to a single area genetically weak, as they don't get the chance to mate with stronger partners from other geographical areas, making them more prone to diseases, he said.

Gir lions are also threatened by poaching, man-animal conflict and accidents. Many lions have died recently after falling into the wells created to provide water for flora and fauna of the park.

"If Gujarat says that there is a security issue in Kuno, then why are the lions straying out of Gir. Some of the lions are even reaching Daman and Diu," said Mr. Khudsar.

"The only solution left is to create different populations in different areas. The geographical barriers might help the lions evolve stronger genes in the near future that would ensure their long-term survival," he explains.

FM provides for gene pools in budget

FM provides for gene pools in budget
Gujarat Samachar
Briefly translated from Gujarati
Finance Minister of Gujarat Shree Vajubhai Vala today presented the budget for the year 2009-10. In this budget he has generously provided Rs. 8 crores (1.7 Mn dollars) for gene pools at Sakkarbaug, Rampara and Umat in Rajkot district. This is a praise worth step by state Govt. in conservation of Asiatic lions.

Lion attacks two brothers at Kaneri village

Lion attacks two brothers at Kaneri village
Divya Bhaskar
Briefly translated from Gujarati
A pride with four adult lions and cubs had made Kaneri village in Una sub-district as their home since last one week.

In the morning at about 8AM, Rana Laxman Solanki and Dhiru Laxman Solanki, two brothers were working in their farm. Suddenly one lion attacked Ranabhai and started pulling him by holding him on his right hand. Dhiru when saw this came to rescue. Lion attacked him and injured him on back and thighs. Inspite of though fight by brothers lion would not buzz but it became more furious.

In the meantime Haresh Bachu olanki saw the man – animal fight. He started throwing stones at lion. And mob gathered started shouting. Finally lion left two men and hide into nearby barley crops.

At the time other three lions were hiding in the sugarcane farm. Injured brothers were taken to Una Govt. hospital for treatment. Forest department staff immediately rushed to the place to arrange for moving lions to jungle area.

Girnar's mysterious Siberian cranes!

Girnar's mysterious Siberian cranes!
Jumana Shah & Amit Arora / DNA, Sunday, June 28, 2009 10:09 IST
Is the visit of the stunning Siberian cranes to the Girnar forest hills in Gujarat, the state's best kept secret? If the company building the ropeway to the temple atop Girnar Hill in Junagadh, Usha Breco, is to be believed, the Sibes are one of the 20 endangered species found in the Girnar hills! This, ornithologists and naturalists of the region assert, is "absurd", as this highly endangered species of cranes has never visited Gujarat.

Moreover, the state does not even fall on the Siberian Crane's Central Asian flyway. The species is a migratory bird that visited India from central Asia during winters. In India, the crane has been sighted only in Keoladeo National park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan. But even there, the Sibes have not been sighted since early 2002.
As for Usha Breco, this information was revealed by the company in the environment public hearing of the Girnar aerial ropeway on June 3 in Junagadh, in reply to queries by activists. The company's reply has been uploaded on the Gujarat Pollution Control Board's website as part of the minutes of the hearing.
Deputy conservator of forest, and a very keen birder, Uday Vora says, "It is a great folly. There has been no record of Siberian cranes in Girnar. It has apparently been written by someone who does not know the basics of ornithology or does not know the difference between Demoiselle crane and Sibes."
While some environmentalists are finding the mistake funny, others are enraged at the company's lack of sensitiveness on the ecological importance of the region. Girnar hills are home to the endangered Asiatic lions and fast vanishing vultures. "The company is about to be entrusted with a very sensitive responsibility of constructing ropeway in an ecological sensitive zone. If they are not aware of the existing flora and fauna, how are they going to conserve it?" a naturalist claimed, requesting anonymity.
The company officials on their part disown the data saying the information given to the activists at the public hearing was compiled completely with the help of forest department officials and professors of local universities. "I am not aware of this particular information (about Siberian cranes), but all the information about wildlife was provided to us by the forest officials," said western regional head of Usha Breco, Dipak Kapilesh.

279 Maldhari have sold land allotted to them from forest department

279 Maldhari have sold land allotted to them from forest department
Gujarat Samachar
Briefly translated from Gujarati
In a question asked by MLA Jawaharbhai Chavda forest minister Shri Mangubhai Patel informed the house that in last two year six people have been killed by wild animals in Junagadh district. He said that family of the deseazed have been paid compensation of Rs. 6 lacs. He also informed that 4663 domestic cattle have been killed and owners are paid compensation of Rs. 76 lacs (Rs. 7609654). He stated that 531 owners are yet to receive compensation.

In another question by MLA Gyasudinbhai Sheikh forest minister informed that 588 Maldharis had been allotted land while their rehabilitation. Out of this 279 land have been converted into “old condition” (Juni Sarat) by Maldharis and have been sold. This sold lands are being used for agriculture purpose only.

In one case legal action is taken against one purchaser under Indian Forest Act – 1927 and Wildlife Protection Act 1972. This owner has moved high court.

Lioness caged in Mahuva forest

Lioness caged in Mahuva forest
1 Jul 2009, 2202 hrs IST
MAHUVA (BHAVNAGAR): A lioness, which has been terrorising villagers in Chhapariyali area of Mahuva range forest for past two months, was caged by forest department officials on Tuesday. According to the officials, the lioness was nicknamed 'Lady Don' after she had mauled five persons. "After the lioness injured five persons seriously, villagers stopped venturing outside their houses in the evening," said range forest officer M Jaypalsinh. "Following public demand, we set up a trap in the area," he added.

Six killed, 46 injured in lion attacks in two years

Six killed, 46 injured in lion attacks in two years
In the last two years, six persons have been killed and 46 injured in lion attacks. On Wednesday, the forest department told State Assembly that in last 13 months, till 30 May, 2009, three persons died while 46 were badly mauled by prowling big cats.
The department said a compensation of Rs 5.95 lakh was paid to those killed and injured. During the same period, 2,527 domestic animals were killed in lion attacks. Of these, 339 cattle belonged to 314 Maldharis who stay within the Gir sanctuary. The department has awarded a compensation of Rs 26.90 lakh for animals killed by lions.
In reply to a query, the department said from June 1, 2007 to May 31, 2008, three persons were killed and 2,136 animals attacked by lions. It said in the last two years — from June 1, 2007 to May 31, 2009 — a compensation worth Rs 76.09 lakh was paid just for animal killings.
The department is yet to pay a compensation of Rs 16.21 lakh for animal killings and Rs 50,000 for people injured in lion attacks.

A senior bureaucrat said with more lions moving out of Gir Sanctuary and making other areas their home, mananimal conflicts are growing. He said though not many human casualties have been reported, number of animal killings has gone up by nearly 400 in a year. Officers said the lion population has increased because of proper conservation measures. They said apart from conservation steps taken by the forest department, people are also sensitive to the cause of lions conservation. "Villagers would often sacrifice their cattle for lion," said government officials.

Forest department is in the process of developing new sanctuaries which includes the Barda Dungar in Porbandar. The department declared Pania, Mitiyala and Gir as sanctuaries. The total area of these three sanctuaries put together is around 235 sq km and another 190 sq km, which is the area of Barda, is ready for shifting of lions. Officials said the carrying capacity of Gir Sanctuary was just 280 lions and hence, 70 lions have moved to Palitana, in Bhavnagar and to Porbandar.