Friday, September 28, 2012
Saturday, September 15, 2012
Sunday, September 16, 2012
The last post at GirIf you want to see an Indian lion born free, and living free, you have to visit Gir, in Gujarat, and keep your fingers crossedHugh & Colleen Gantzer
THEY are the universal symbols of royalty. Their names have become titles of courage and are the commonest surnames in India. Singh, Sinha, Singha, Narasimha — all mean lion: specifically the Indian lion. Once upon a time, they had roamed the whole of West Asia, down through northern India and as far as the Narmada. Their ferocity, fearlessness and regality inspired the heralds of England to emblazon them on the crest of their kings. Ironically, the dedicated "sportsmen" of the Raj reduced them to just 12 by the end of the 19th century. Then, the Nawab of Junagadh called a halt. Today, more than 411 Asiatic lions roam free in 1,412 sq km of protected wilderness in Gujarat’s Gir. Clearly, now, the so-called Asiatic Lions should rightly be called the Indian lions.
This year, when spring was warming into summer, we drove into the green campus of the Gujarat Forest Department’s Sinh Sadan in search of these magnificent animals. A roaring lion is the state emblem. Gujarat is so proud of its lions that it refuses to allow them to be relocated in any other state.
If you want to see an Indian lion born free, and living free, you have to visit Gir. But even then, though your chances of seeing the king of the beasts in the wild are high, you can’t be sure. Make up your mind to enjoy the wilderness and its inhabitants, even the smallest ones, and keep your fingers crossed that luck will be on your side and you will see one of the Great Royals of Gir.
Spring was the right season. Most trees had shed their leaves and forest workers were sweeping them up and burning them to prevent forest fires. Consequently, visibility was clear for fairly long distances. We realised, once again, that when an animal at the top of the food chain is protected then everything lower down also thrives. There were herds of chital, their speckled coats flickering through the sun-dappled forest, drinking at the water troughs set up and filled by the Forest Department. There are 46,000 chital in Gir, more than enough to ensure that the predators, including the 311 leopards, are able to keep fit hunting for their natural prey. When we first visited Gir, an over-enthusiastic Governor had decided that the lions should be fed so that they would appear at the ‘Lion Show’. They began to lose their ability to hunt. We objected to this in our writings and, eventually, that travesty was stopped. The ecological balance of Gir was restored.
On this visit, to our relief, we saw something that confirmed this: langurs had teamed up with the spotted deer, dropping leaves and fruit to the chital grazing on the forest floor. From their high view-point atop trees, the langurs would also spot predators approaching from far away. Their hooting warning would alert the deer to flee, flashing the white on their tails as danger signals to other animals. The birds, clearly, were not bothered about the presence of lions. Lions, unlike leopards, don’t like scaling up trees. We saw the usual assortment of doves, wood-peckers and garrulous babblers, a spotted owlet fluffed up like a sage in a downy coat, a brace of fat partridges who seemed as curious about us as we were about them, and a brilliantly painted kingfisher. We also saw a pair of stone curlews, informally known as ‘Thicknees’. They looked as if they had arthritis but were as agile as curlews are expected to be. They are ground-nesting birds and they were guarding their scooped-out property on the forest floor.
Outside the park, we met a group of Sidhis. They are descendants of Africans reputedly brought to this area by the former Nawabs of Junagadh. They have integrated seamlessly into the ecology of Gir, while maintaining many of their customs and traditions. They told us that one of their villages was still in the National Park "But the lions don’t trouble us and we don’t trouble them. We live in harmony as our ancestors in Africa must have done. If, sometimes, an accident happens..." our informant shrugged, "we accept it."
Spotting the king
When we returned to Sinh Sadan, we met a family from Mumbai who were jubilant. They had spotted and photographed a whole pride of lions: a full-maned lion, two lionesses, and three cubs. "I wanted to get out of the jeep and cuddle them" gushed 10-year old Sania, "but their mother might have bitten me. No?" We agreed that that might have happened but that didn’t dampen her enthusiasm. "Then why don’t you visit the Interpretation Zone?" she persisted, "You’re bound to see lions there. We did" We told her we had been there and even photographed a lion confronting our jeep on what he obviously considered was his personal road. The Interpretation Zone, however, is a large, fenced-in facility in which the lions live in limited freedom and where the Forest Department also has cages for old and infirm lions. We wanted to see lions living free in the wilderness of the National Park, hunting and fending for themselves.
That afternoon we were put in the hands of guide Ketan, who was also a photographer, and driver Ashish. We were told that they were very lucky: in animal spotting.
We passed a Maldhari herdsman grazing his buffaloes just outside a rather make-shift village. The Maldharis have lived in Gir, with their cattle, for many generations. Their settlements, called nesses, are protected by thorn fences which, apparently, lions avoid. But when they take their herds into the forest their bovines are likely to be attacked by lions and leopards: a ‘tax’ that most Maldharis seem to accept! They get paid for every one of their cattle killed by a jungle predator, and the natural fodder in the forest is so plentiful that it makes up for the loss. So they prefer to assert their right as forest dwellers, and stay on.
We met a Maldhari and his herd in the forest. He said a lion had been seen not far from his settlement this morning and his buffaloes were restless. A little later we spotted nervous chinkara, leaping away like ballet dancers. But their nimble-footed performance could have been triggered by our presence and not, necessarily, by an approaching predator. The sun was quite low in the sky, the light had softened, and we were giving up hope of ever spotting one of the lions of Gir when we heard the yap-yap! of frightened spotted deer. They stood just off the road, a little ahead of us. We drove up and saw that they were tense, their ears swivelled forward. Danger lay in front of them and they were ready to scoot. We raced ahead, Ketan mentioned a wooded ravine as a likely spot. We drove into it. Stopped. Ketan’s eyes were better trained than ours. Also, generations of survival in Gir have given lions a camouflage. Slowly, after our pupils had adjusted to the half-shadows of the forest floor, we saw her. There, stretched out in regal ease, was a magnificent lioness. She turned her head and looked at us with serene arrogance as the sunlight glowed in her amber eyes.
And, in the UK, the stylised icons of her ancestors still, very proudly, rule Britannia.
Monday, August 27, 2012
Condition of Asiatic lion cub improve
Mysore: Two weeks ago, when Asiatic lioness Gowri refused to feed her day-old cub, the Mysore zoo authorities panicked. They consulted experts, decided to hand rear it and managed to rescue it from the jaws of death.
Saturday, August 4, 2012
The Asiatic Lion is an extremely rare and endangered species, so the news out of thePaignton Zoo in Devon, England is heartening. Four Asiatic Lion cubs were born at the zoo in May, and are thought to have a chance at survival now that they have made it through the first few months of their lives. A cub born last year was euthanized due to a spinal condition.
“They have come through the critical first few weeks,” Neil Bemment, the curator and operations director for mammals at the zoo told the BBC. ”We have been letting Indu get on with being a new mum – so far she seems to be doing really well. We are cautiously excited – if she is successful then it will be thanks to a lot of care and attention from the keepers.”
If the cubs survive and thrive for another year or so, they will be shipped out to other zoos so they can breed and try to keep the dwindling Asiatic Lion population from plummeting even more. Hunters have left fewer than 300 Asiatic Lions in the wild (the Gir Forest in Gujarat, India), with around 300 more living in zoos.
Monday, July 23, 2012
MoEF notice to halt work on lion safari project in Etawah
Author(s): Biswajeet Banerjee
Date: Jul 16, 2012
Notice to Uttar Pradesh says project in reserved forestland for commercial purpose is illegal
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has put a spanner in Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav's pet project—a lion safari in his father's home district, Etawah. The ministry has slapped the state government with a notice, asking it to halt construction work on the project immediately. The notice says the development work in the reserved Fisher Forest in Chambal area of Etawah is illegal because the Uttar Pradesh government has not taken permission from the ministry for it as required under the Forest Conservation Act of 1980.
The main objection raised by MoEF is that the state government is planning to use the forestland for commercial purposes by planning a lion safari in it. “Taking up non-forest activities, including constructing permanent structures, is a violation of the Forest Conservation Act. Besides, the working plan of the Etawah forest division up to 2015-16 has already been approved,” says the notice.
The lion safari proposal was first mooted in 2005 when Akhilesh's father, Mulayam Singh Yadav, was the chief minister of the state. A total of 150.83 hectares of forestland bordering Madhya Pradesh was identified for the purpose. At that time, the state government had approached MoEF with the plea that the project would boost tourism and generate income for local people. It was argued that the topography and ecology of Gir and Etawah are similar and so permission should be given to set up the lion safari in the area. But the ministry turned down the proposal, saying the Central Zoo Authority should first give its consent. That consent never materialised, and with Samajwadi Party losing power in 2007 the project was shelved.
Uttar Pradesh's chief wildlife warden, Rupek De, says the ministry's communication is a “routine exchange of letters between two governments”. An appropriate answer would be given to MoEF at the appropriate time, he says.
The project, which will cost an estimated Rs 35 crore, is being closely monitored by chief minister. Akhilesh Yadav, who during his visit to the area last month, had asked officials to expedite the project. The lion safari figured prominently in the state budget that was passed on July 3.
A thorny problem
As per the master plan for the project, the thorny Babool tree, the primary species of the Chambal ravines, will have to be eradicated and replaced with species dominant in the Gir sanctuary area, to provide the lions with a favourable habitat. Babool is not suited for the soft padded lion and removing the trees from the habitat area may prove an uphill task, say forest officials.
The master plan calls for grass plantation for soil and moisture conservation, apart from provision of permanent water source for lions by digging deep bore wells. Growing trees on rocky surfaces will require larger efforts as special machines will have to be pressed into service to drill pockets, which then will have to be filled with soil to prepare for plantation, say officials. To start with, the state government has sanctioned Rs 5 crore.
“The final plans have been sent to the senior officials for approval. Once the approvals are in place, we shall approach the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) for sanction,” says Sujoy Banerjee, divisional forest officer of Chambal wildlife division at Agra.
But MoEF has taken a strong exception to felling of trees and the process of levelling the ground. No felling is proposed in the area as per the approved working plan of the Etawah forest division. Any change in working plan prescription requires prior approval from the Central government under the Forest Conservation Act, the MoEF letter says.
Despite these objections, the state's wildlife department has initiated talks with some of the zoos of the country, including those in Junagadh, Rajkot and Hyderabad, for procuring Asiatic lions. De, the state's chief wildlife warden, says work on the project is being undertaken on a war-footing. “The current habitat (Fisher Forest) is being modified. We have consulted the authorities of the Gir forests to have a habitat which is best suited for the lions and replicate it here. The species of trees that we will be planting include sheesham (Indian rosewood), semul (silk cotton tree), Acacia and ficus species such as bargad (banyan tree) and peepal. Grass species will also be added," he says. He adds that the state will soon procure pure bred Asiatic Lions (Panthera leo persica) and they would first be kept in the state's existing zoos from where they would be shifted to the safari park when work gets completed.
In the first phase, breeding centres would be set up inside the safari area. As per the CZA's conditions, the safari would be opened for public only when the number of lions goes up to 10. In the second phase, requisite infrastructure would be developed inside the safari area, says De.
As per the April-2010 census, India has 411 Asiatic Lions, of which Gir in Gujarat has around 297.
Flip flop on project feasibility
When the Bahujan Samaj Party headed by Mayawati came to power in 2007, officials had said that the lion safari project was not feasible and said the environment around Fisher Forest zone in Etawah was not conducive enough to set up a lion safari in league with the Gir forest in Gujarat. The Mayawati regime's focus was on developing an elephant (the party's symbol) reserve in Bijnore.
After Akhilesh Yadav assumed charge as chief minister in March this year, the lion safari project was revived. Work has been started by felling existing trees, changing the landscape and undertaking fresh plantation.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
नागलपुर गावं में दिन दहाड़े घुसा एक तेंदुवा !
HANIF KHOKHAR, JUNAGADH - GUJARAT, +91 9426457264
LOCATION: NAGALPUR VILLAGE, DIST: JUNAGADH, GUJARAT.
DATE: 5 JULY 2012 THURSDAY 13:00 PM
जूनागढ़ के आसपास के इलाकेमें तेंदुवे की तादात इतनी बढ़ गई है की तेंदुवे अब तो घर में भी घुसने लगे है, जूनागढ़ के नागलपुर गाव में एक तेंदुवा दिन दहाड़े बिच बाजार में एक मकान में घुस गया था. घर के अन्दर घुसे तेंदुवे को बहार निकलने में वन विभाग की रेस्क्यू टीम को करीब चार घंटे की मुशक्कत करनी पड़ी थी,
गुजरात के जूनागढ़ के करीबी गाव नागलपुर के सदभावनगर के इस मकान में आज सुबह सुबह एक बिन बुलाया महेमान घुस गया है, महेमान कोई और नहीं बल्के महेमान एक खूंखार तेंदुवा है, जो दिन दहाड़े इस गाव की गलियों से गुजरते हुवे चिमनभाई राणपरिया के घर मैं घुस गया है. शिकार की तलाश में यह तेंदुवा गावमें घुस गया था, और बिच बाज़ार से भागता हुवे तेंदुवे को देखकर गाव के लोग इकठ्ठा हो गए और चारो तरफ शोर मच गया और फिर तेंदुवा छलांग लगाकर इस घर मैं घुस गया, तेंदुवे को घर में घुसता हुवा देख कर घर के लोग भी दर गए और कमरे में घुस गए, तेंदुवा भी छलांग लगाकर इस खुले कमरे मैं घुस गया. यहो मौका देखकर चिमनभाई राणपरिया कमरे का दरवाजा बांध करके ताला लगा दिया और वन विभाग को जानकारी दी के उनके घर में एक तेंदुवे घुस गया है.
जैसे ही वन विभाग को को पता चला की ताबड़ तोड़ एक टीम वहा पहोच गई और सभी बातो जा जायजा लेकर सासन गिर से एक खास रेस्क्यू टीम बुलाई और फिर रेस्क्यू टीमने आकर तेंदुवे का निरीक्षण कर के उसे बेहोशी का इंजेक्सन देने की तय्यारी की मगर तेंदुवे ने कमरे के अन्दर अफडा ताफ्दी मचा राखी थी जैसे ही रेस्क्यू टीम तेंदुवे को इंजेक्सन देने की कोशी कसरती थी तेंदुवे खिड़की से जपट्टा मार कर हमले की कोशिश में था मगर करीब चार घंटे की मुशक्कत के बाद तेंदुवे को बेहोशी का इंजेक्शन लग गया और तेंदुवा बेहोश हो गया, फिर उसे पिंजड़े में बांध कर के सासन गिर के अनिमल केर सेंटर में ले जाया गया है. वहा जब होश मैं आएगा उसके बाद उसे फिर से जंगल में छोड़ दिया जाये गा.
शेरो के संरक्षण प्रोग्राम के कारन शेरो के साथ साथ तेंदुवे की संख्य में भी काफी इजाफा हुवा है. पीछे साल हुई गिनती में सब से जादा तेंदुवे की संख्या जूनागढ़ जिले में पाई गई है इस लिए इस इलाकेमें आये दिन तेंदुवे गाव में घुस जाते है और लोगो के ऊपर हमला करदेते है. मगर इस घटने से लोगो में काफी डर बेथ गया है क्यों की पहेले तो सिर्फ रात के समय ही खेतो में तेंदुवे दिखाई देते थे मगर अब तो दिन दहाड़े गाव में और घर में घुस जाना चिंता विषय हो गया है.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Cricket lions : Pathan brothers visit Gujarat's Gir National Park
JUNAGADH (Gujarat): Cricketers Irfan and Yusuf Pathan visited the sole home of the Asiatic lion, the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, with their family here on Sunday.
The brothers, on a two-day recreational visit after a tiring cricket season, were happy to be in the wildlife park.
"We saw three lions earlier. They were resting, two of them were sitting and another one was sleeping. Then we saw a family of seven lionesses who were sitting at a place, after that we saw eleven lions and lioness who passed by our vehicle. We felt very good after watching all these things," Yusuf Pathan said.
The younger Pathan, seen with his father and mother, said that the most interesting part of the trip was a lion killing an animal to feed on, which was a rare spectacle and felt an adrenaline rush.
"We were feeling good and at the same time we had an adrenaline rush that a lioness was walking so close to us and was staring at us. It passed by my mother who was sitting in the vehicle behind me, I made a video of this incident and I believe that me and my family will never be able to forget this thing throughout my life," said Irfan Pathan.
Established in 1965, the Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as Sasan-Gir, is the sole home of the majestic Asiatic lions.
Besides, Gir harbours around thousand species of birds and 26 species of reptiles.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Vulture census begins Junagadh
Junagadh (Gujarat), May 29 (ANI): Forest officials in the Sasan Gir National Park in Gujarat have begun a two-day census of vultures.
Deputy Conservator of Forest, Gir Forest Sanctuary, Sandeep Kumar, said around 600 forest officials have been deployed to monitor the number of vultures and their behaviour.
"We know the time and are, where the vultures arrive. So, before the time of arrival, the staff takes its place silently in the nearby areas and we try and count the number of adult and child vultures. Along with this, we also note the compositions in which these vultures arrive, we note down the time, the place and silently observe their behaviour. So, this is the kind of observation we do," said Kumar.
Kumar said there are various types of vultures in the forest, including king vulture, long billed vultures, Egyptian vultures and many other species of vultures.
Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Junagarh R.L. Meena said the number would not decrease and would remain stable.
"The estimation of citing would be declared in a proper way at the state level. As per the citing so far, I feel that the number would not decrease, it would remain stable," said Meena.
According to the 2005 census, 2135 vultures were recorded
According to a report in 2010, two US researchers found that the cause of the unprecedented decline in the population of vultures in India was a veterinary drug residue in cattle and livestock carcasses, which was killing most of the South Asian vultures, leaving them on the brink of extinction.
It was discovered the vultures were being poisoned by residues of an anti-inflammatory drug (diclofenac) used in cattle and other livestock, whose carcasses they feed on.
The anti-inflammatory drug was fed to ailing cattle and other livestock, was being ingested by the wild birds feeding on the carcasses and causing visceral gout, a manifestation of renal failure. (ANI)
Monday, May 28, 2012
Friday, May 25, 2012
Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh government has dusted off a 2006 plan to create a miniature version of South Africa's Kruger National Park, whose lion safari draws tourists like a magnet all year round.
Significantly, the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party dispensation has chosen a 50- hectare tract of land in Fisher Forest that lies in Mulayam Singh Yadav's citadel of Etawah. This would be the first ever such project in the state.
Government sources revealed that apart from serving as an attraction for backpackers, the safari will house a lion breeding centre of international standards to augment the captive population of the magnificent Asiatic lion in the country, the Daily Mail reported.
But wildlife experts expressed doubts about the viability of the UP government's ambitious plan.
Conservationist Ananda Banerjee observed: "The first hurdle for the UP government would be procuring lions from its counterpart in Gujarat. The latter has submitted in the Supreme Court that it will not hand over lions to anyone. It refused the Madhya Pradesh government's request in this regard."
Nearly 150 hectares of land in Fisher Forest on Etawah-Gwalior highway, close to the National Chambal Sanctuary and ravines of the Yamuna had been acquired in 2005 during the Mulayam regime and was notified as a Lion Safari. Named after Fisher, collector of Etawah in 1888, the forest lies about 10 km from the Etawah district headquarters. Of the total cost of Rs 5.6 crore, Rs 1.04 crore had been allotted for the safari in 2005.
The project, however, was derailed after Mulayam's exit in 2007 after losing to the BSP.
The land for the project has already been identified in the Fisher Forest area of Etawah. The project would take about two years to complete after the CZA grants approval.
The state government recently sent a request to the Gujarat government asking for a lion and four lionesses needed for natural breeding. The Gir National Park in Junagadh (Gujarat) is the only natural habitat of pure Asian lions in Asia. When the original project had been sent to the CZA in 2005, it had granted approval on the condition that a lion breeding centre be set up as part of the safari.