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Linear projects: A rising threat to our forests and wildlife: Fauna

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier this month, on December 5, locals at Hojai in Assam’s Nagaon district witnessed a distressing incident. A speeding Kanyakumari-Dibrugarh Vivek Express rammed into three elephants, killing them. It included two pregnant elephants, who delivered stillborn calves. Only 12 days later, two adult elephants and a calf were killed when a train hit them 125kms away from Guwahati, again in Nagaon district. These two accidents along with another one on December 6 took the life of eight elephants in December alone.The accidents in Assam and the rise in proposed linear projects such as highways, railway line doubling, power transmission lines and canals once again bring to attention how perhaps certain developmental projects pose the biggest threats to our forests and wildlife. A deeper look into projects that have been both, proposed and cleared, reveals that they will pass through some of our most dense forests that are home to rich biodiversity, varied wildlife and are precious sources of freshwater in fast warming climate. In 2016, some crucial linear projects that will fragment our forests, were cleared or have made their way towards being cleared.Wildlife corridors under threatFor instance, in March, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), chaired by the Prime Minister, cleared conversion of the 227-km long Gondia-Jabalpur line from narrow gauge to broad gauge. Of this 227km, 77km will pass through the Kanha-Pench tiger corridor, considered one of the most crucial in the country for it allows tigers from two different source populations and gene pools to move to newer territories.In Eastern India, the Indian Railways has approved expansion of the 156km long Sambalpur-Angul railway line, that already fragments Satkosia-Ushakoti-Badrama elephant and tiger landscape.Conservationists and wildlife activists have argued that while large linear projects should be avoided in forests and wildlife habitats, there is also an acute lack of standardized environmental safeguards.Lack of willIn the case of National Highway – 7 widening, that will pass through the Kanha-Pench wildlife corridor and the Pench tiger reserve, the National Highway Authority of India was dragged to court to have them construct environmental safeguards such as underpasses and overpasses for safe wildlife passage.The NH-7 case illustrated that government agencies were unwilling to initiate expenditure on environmental safeguards to prevent wildlife casualties, until courts ordered them to. Following this case, the union ministry for environment, forest and climate change commissioned the Wildlife Institute of India to prepare guidelines on incorporating environmental safeguards in linear infrastructure. The ministry also commissioned this report with a view to ensure speedy clearances for linear projects.The guidelines were made public in October and suggested minimum engineering solutions such as elevated ramps and sections should for wildlife to cross highways and fencing in case of railways. The guidelines though, do not have to be followed mandatory, as they have not been notified.Environmentalists have also questioned these guidelines. “I don’t think these guidelines will be followed because the project developers always try to go for safeguards that will be least expensive. We need to put in place a conservation fund for linear projects and project proponents ought to involve environmental experts at the start of the project and not at the clearance stage. These projects are fragmenting and damaging valuable forest resource,” said Anish Andheria,, President, Wildlife Conservation Trust, a non-profit organisation working in 110 protected areas across 19 states.Other conservationists said that the current dispensation has junked an earlier decision of the environment ministry to stop new roads in protected areas. “The NBWL, in its previous term, had recognised linear infrastructure as one of the major threats to forests and wildlife. This prompted formulation of guidelines that said that no new roads will be constructed in protected areas. Why were those guidelines junked? asks Prerna Bindra, conservationist and former member of NBWL standing committee.Upcoming projects passing through forests and protected areasProposed linear projects waiting for wildlife and forest clearance:Dedicated freight corridor passing through Gautam Buddha Sanctuary, home to leopards, bears and chitalCasterlock-Kulem railway line doubling and Tinaighat – Castlerock railway line doubling in Dandeli wildlife sanctuaryHubli-Ankola railway line will pass through Western Ghats forests, Bedthi conservation reserve at Yellapur and buffer region of Anshi Dandeli Tiger ReserveBarkhera-Budni third railway line construction in Ratapani wildlife sanctuary. Project will take up 104.75 hectares of the sanctuary

In chase for missing Jai, Maha seeks video footage from Telangana

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Maharashtra government has sought a video footage from Telangana to ascertain if a tiger spotted in the state’s forests is ‘Jai’, the famous feline, who went missing in April from Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary, near Nagpur.“Local news channels reported that Jai was spotted in Telangana’s forest area. We are seeking help from the Telangana government to send us a video footage of the tiger,” Maharashtra Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said.However, forest officials from Adilabad Forest Division, Telangana, said they did not have any video footage nor were they were successful in capturing images of the tiger on camera traps.“A tiger was spotted at Pippalakoti village, around four kilometers from Tippeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary. The village is outside the forest area and has dense cotton plantation. It has been very difficult to track or locate the tiger. We have not been successful in getting any images either,” said Sivala Rambabu, District Forest Officer (DFO) Adilabad Forest Division.Naturalists, however, believe this to be yet another wild goose chase. “When I spoke to forest officials at Adilabad, they confirmed a tiger sighting by two of their rangers on December 14 at midnight. However, they couldn’t see a collar or even identify if the cat spotted was a male or a female,” said Sarosh Lodhi of Conservation Lenses and Wildlife (ClaW) — an independent group of wildlife lovers and photographers, who flagged off mission Finding Jai.The group has announced a cash prize of Rs50,000 to anyone who can help find Jai.Photographic evidence or a latest scat or hair sample, or at least detailed pug mark is needed to confirm if the feline spotted was Jai, but in this case there is nothing but speculations, said Lodhi.Inputs from PTI

Two retired teachers come to the tigers’ rescue

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In 2009, the Wildlife Institute of India reported that the Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR) had no tigers anymore. As forest officials planned the re-introduction of tigers in the reserve, they recruited two retired schoolteachers for a key task.The officials realised that without the local community’s support, a sustainable tiger habitat was not feasible. They found their men for the job in two well respected teachers in Panna: Ambika Khare, and Devidutta Chaturvedi.Six years of sustained efforts of these two men, working alongside forest officials finally bore fruits, and how! Now, there are 35 tigers in the reserve. Earlier this month, Khare and Chaturvedi were recognised for their efforts with Sanctuary Asia magazine’s Earth Heroes 2016 Green Teacher Award.Khare, now 84-years-old and Chaturvedi, 74, have been conducting camps to sensitise the locals about the reserve and its wild cats since 2010. On camp days, the retired teachers reach the park at 6 am to receive the participants. For the next 12 hours, they energetically hold fort; age and weather no dampener for their enthusiasm. Conducted every Sunday and on holidays between November and March, each session includes nature walks, group discussions, role play, park tours and a quiz competition.“They’ve won us valuable local support. Their energy levels and fitness put even younger men to shame,” says Rangaiah Sreenivasa Murthy, a 1987 batch Indian Forest Service officer, who was at the helm of the plan designed in 2010.Now a former field director of the PTR, Murthy says the camps are immensely popular. “They are booked well in advance, and also has people from other districts besides Panna like Chattarpur and Damoh registering.” The registration fee for adults is Rs 200 and Rs 100 for children.Khare, however, insists that the camp’s success is a team effort. “Mr Murthy’s ideas have been able to change the social life and the attitude of the people. He also helped us finetune the nature camp curriculum.”The future of Panna, though worries the octogenarian. He raised the issue of the Ken-Betwa river interlinking project. “This project will submerge a large part of the Panna reserve. Those who think that water from Ken will feed the parched Betwa are short-sighted, and do not understand how nature works. It is the forests in the Panna reserve that feed Ken. When forests are gone, a beautiful habitat for tigers and a river will be destroyed. I plead for sanity and wisdom,” he said, while speaking to DNA.A Science and English teacher, Khare realises that while men like him and his colleague may have mastered the art of teaching ordinary people, their words carry little weight in the corridors of power in Bhopal or New Delhi.

New tigers in Jai’s territory

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Almost eight months after its dominant male disappeared from the Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary (UKWLS), two males have moved in to replace the missing tiger Jai. What’s more, the number of adult tigers in the sanctuary has increased from four last year to seven now, with two pregnant tigresses likely to deliver fresh litters soon. A senior forest department official told DNA that camera trap monitoring which was being carried out in the sanctuary had revealed the presence of seven adult tigers, including two males and five females. The final results of this Phase IV monitoring exercise are expected shortly. The exercise carried out last year had thrown up the presence of just four individuals. “Two female tigers are pregnant and may deliver cubs very soon,” said another official. He added the presence of two males would ensure diversity in the gene pool. One of the males is Jai’s three-year old offspring ‘Jaichand’ (a combination of the names of his father Jai and mother Chandi) and the other tiger is supposed to have entered Maharashtra from adjoining areas since he has not been captured in camera traps earlier.Officials said there were chances that another male tiger was also trying to enter the UKWLS habitat. When 250 kg Jai — named after Amitabh Bachchan’s character from Sholay — went missing, it led to a massive outcry with fears that the iconic tiger, the largest in India, may have been poached. The NTCA tiger census, which is conducted every four years detected 190 tigers in Maharashtra in 2014. However, last year’s Phase IV monitoring by the forest department to confirm these figures had identified 203 tigers.

Delhi bird flu: SC raps AAP govt, asks MLAs to clean Delhi garbage

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Supreme Court on Friday rapped the Delhi government over the way garbage had been piled up in various places. The SC bench, headed by Justice Madan Lokur, said, “45 metres of height of garbage in places are alarming.”According to a report in India Today, the apex court said, “Do your MLAs have no responsibilities? Every part of Delhi is covered by your MLAs, what are they doing? Your MLAs, instead of increasing their salaries, should start segregating garbage. The issue of segregation of solid waste is alarming.”SC told AAP government what their plans were to clean the garbage. “You have to plan for the future. You don’t have to react to a situation,” SC directed. The Supreme Court was hearing the matter pertaining to the case of parents who committed suicide after their child died due to vector-borne diseases. The SC asked to convene a meeting of all stakeholders including the MCDs and Delhi government on the issue of garbage disposal.Delhi Development Minister on Friday said that regular monitoring is being done, adding that the medical card will be used at the entry gate of every mandi (wholesale market place) to curb the spread of the infection. Rai visited the chicken mandi in Ghaziabad and said no infection was found in the 2.2 lakh birds which arrived recently.”We have taken few decisions in this regard. We’ll make a medical card that will be used at the entry gate to curb the spread the infection. Those trucks which don’t have medical certificate will not be allowed to enter. Five officials, five doctors and five retailers committee will be formed who will continuously monitor the situation,” he added.National Zoological Park shut down temporarilyThe National Zoological Park in Delhi has been closed temporarily, has reported fresh cases of deaths of pelican birds. The zoo was shut down on Wednesday after nine birds, including painted storks, ducks and pelicans died of avian influenza at its premises between October 14 and October 17.A team of Central Zoo Authority is currently inspecting all the enclosures at the zoo. Also, the Delhi government has shut down the Deer Park in Hauz Khas after it suspected that two birds found dead inside the park could be infected with bird flu.Around 100 more samples have been collected in the last two days from Ghazipur, Okhla Bird Sanctuary, Najafgarh drain, Yamuna Biodiversity Park and the Central Park in Hauz Khas and sent to a specialised Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Jalandhar.

20-feet long python swallows blue bull in Gujarat

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It is being said that a python can swallow a prey bigger than itself.A similar incident was caught on camera when a 20-feet long python was seen swallowing a blue bull (Nilgai) in Junagadh district of Gujarat. The authorities of the Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Junagadh, were informed about the python through a telephonic message by a farmer, who first noticed it.”Python roams around the wildlife sanctuary and they could rarely be seen. We got a telephonic message of a farmer that a python has swallowed a big animal. We sent a rescue team immediately and found that a python has swallowed a blue bull,” said Assistant Conservator of Forest SD Tilala. Tilala said they would release the python soon after it digests the blue bull.”It was 18-20 feet long. We have transported the animal to some other place so that it does not injure other people. We will keep it under observation. When it will digest the blue bull, we will release the python in the forest,? he added.

Bombay HC to decide on rehab of 500 exotic birds, animals rescued by police

The conservator of forest (wildlife) has urged the Bombay High Court to decided on the fate of around 500 exotic birds and animals rescued by the police. Earlier, conservator MM Kulkarni was asked by the court to give a report on two NGOs that have the required facilities to rehabilitate birds/animals.In his affidavit filed before the high court, Kulkarni stated that a team of experts visited two NGOs – Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Katraj and Myvets Charitable Trust and Research Centre in Panvel – and checked their facilities, which were found to be good enough to house the rescued birds and animals.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Even though both the facilities were found to be good, the affidavit stated that Myvet’s was close to the Karnala Bird Sanctuary, which could make it easier for forest officials to visit the facility frequently.The affidavit, filed through government pleader Bharat Mehta, also said that veterinary doctors were available at both the NGOs to provide proper treatment to injured birds and animals. However, it stated that the court should pass suitable orders for making provisions for rehabilitation of exotic birds and animals.In March, the court had asked the government to provide particulars of two NGOs, one in Katraj and the other in Panvel, that would assist in keeping exotic animals rescued by the police and/or those that visited Mumbai and stayed back. The court had given the direction while hearing a petition filed by Viniyog Parivar Trust, which claimed that no natural habitat was available to these exotic birds and animals. Earlier, the court had suggested the names of Sanjay Gandhi National Park and the Karnala Bird Sanctuary but the forest department turned down the suggestion, saying both of them could not be natural habitats for the animals in view of the fact that there were other wildlife animals already present there.Further, the government had also suggested Byculla Zoo as a place where they could be kept but the court shot down the suggestion, saying the place was in bad shape and no proper facilities were available there.In 1997, the trust had approached the court by filing a public interest litigation. The court had constituted a 14-member committee to suggest ways and means to ensure compliance with the provisions of Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.Exotic birds, animalsExotic birds and animals include different varieties of munias, parakeets, peacocks, weaver birds, koel, mynahs, owls and star tortoises, which are commonly sold.

In Mowgli land, BJP govt plans to cut over 550 trees for tiger safari

Madhya Pradesh forest department is considering a proposal to fell over 550 trees to make way for a tiger safari in its Pench national park, known as home to ‘Mowgli’, a fictional character and protagonist in English writer Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’.The forest department has started working on a project to create tiger safari in the park straddling Seoni and Chhindwara districts of the state. It has been proposed to erect a boundary wall which would require pruning of shrubs and felling of 556 trees, according to an order issued by Pench national park’s authorities.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>However, the plan has got stuck for want of permission of Delhi-based National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). The decision to cut 556 has, however, been criticised by wildlife activists who termed it as a violation of rules.”We are against the creation of tiger safari inside Pench national park. There has been continuous cases of tiger deaths in Madhya Pradesh. The state government instead of taking steps towards protection of tigers is trying to reduce the green cover and increasing people’s activities. The NTCA must reject this plan,” said Ajay Dubey, on whose petition Supreme Court had in 2010 banned tourism inside tiger reserves. Pench national park or tiger reserve is known world over as home to ‘Mowgli’– a man-cub said to have been spotted there. The park, sprawling over 758 square kms, is located on the southern boundary of Madhya Pradesh, bordering Maharashtra.It has 299 sq kms core area of Indira Priyadarshini Pench national park and the Mowgli Pench Sanctuary. The remaining 464 sq km is the buffer area.There are six tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh–Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Panna, Bori-Satpura, Sanjay-Dubri and Pench– which have about 257 big cats. While the tiger population in the country was estimated at 1,706 in 2010, t had risen to 2,226 in 2014. Madhya Pradesh ranks third–after Karnataka and Uttarakhand–in tiger population in the country.

Notify Tipeshwar wildlife sanctuary as tiger project, demand researchers

With a scientific study establishing the number of tigers in the Tipeshwar wildlife sanctuary, wildlife researchers are demanding that it has to be upgraded to a tiger project to ensure habitat protection and to prevent man-animal conflict.”The study has established nine tigers, including five sub-adults and four adults, including two males and two females,” said Ramzan Virani, wildlife researcher and faculty in the department of zoology at the SM College in Pandharkawada,Yavatmal, who conducted the exercise.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The sanctuary is spread over a 148.63 sqkm area in Yavatmal district and is also a source for tigers to migrate to other sanctuaries like the nearby Painganga and even Kawal in neighbouring Telangana.Elected representatives like Raju Todsam, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA from Arni in Yavatmal, have already written to forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar seeking the sanctuary to be notified as a tiger reserve. This will also develop tourism facilities and boost employment for locals.Virani added that apart from these two litters – which includes one male and four female cubs – they had seen pug marks in the area a few days ago and the forest staff had informed them about the presence of a tigress with around three to four cubs.”However, we have no photographic evidence,” said Virani, adding that they would begin an evaluation in the coming days to establish more number of tigers. In addition, there are around three tigers in a distance of around 10km from the sanctuary.The data culled from the study, which was conducted during a two-and-half month period and was based on direct observation records by tracking pug marks and movements, has been forwarded to the MS Reddy, chief conservator of forest and field director of the Pench Tiger reserve.Virani said at least three of the female sub-adults would come in heat in this year’s monsoons or winters and there was a chance that they would move out of the sanctuary while defining their territories and their possession over males.”So, it is necessary for Tipeshwar to be declared as a tiger project. It will help in habitat development,” he stressed, adding that while a tigress marked out around 10 sqkm of territory, this could be restricted to around 8 to 6km in a rich habitat with a good prey base and walkways. Males, who prominently mark their territory, need around 25 to 30 sqkm area.Declaring Tipeshwar as a tiger project can also enable its expansion to include neighbouring forests, especially considering the movement of tigers there.The benefits of declaring Tipeshwar a tiger project would also include better protection, demarcation of a core and buffer area as against a less stringent eco-sensitive zone around a wildlife sanctuary, ensuring strong protection norms, and restricting activities like mining. It will also lead to the deployment of the special tiger protection force (STPF) to keep poachers away. Villages will also benefit due to schemes which will reduce the livelihood pressure on forests and man-animal conflict, Virani noted.”The pressures on the forest can be reduced due to employment and entrepreneurship development (schemes) and also because of distribution of LPG cylinders (which reduce the need for villagers to source firewood and biomass from forests for cooking needs),” he pointed out.Maharashtra has six tiger reserves. In 2014, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), government of India, ministry of environment and forests, approved the state’s notification of the Bor tiger reserve spread over Wardha and Nagpur, making it the latest tiger reserve. The tiger census, results for which were released in 2014, have said India has 2,226 tigers, up from 1,706 in 2010. Maharashtra has around 190 such big cats, more than the figure of 169 in 2010.

Gujarat: Congress to deny tickets to party MLAs if they don’t act as ‘real opposition’

Upset over the ‘feeble’ protests on the Anar Patel issue, Congress high command has warned party MLAs in Gujarat that their renomination could be in jeopardy if they failed to act as “real opposition” to the Prime Minister in his home state.LIVE England vs West Indies final T20, ICC World T20Assembly elections in the state are scheduled towards the end of next year and the main opposition party is sensing an opportunity following its success in the local bodies polls four months back.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A central leader, who declined to be identified, said ahead of the just-concluded session of the state Assembly, the high command had asked the MLAs to take up the Anar Patel issue in a big way. The issue concerns controversial land allotment to entities associated with Anar Patel, daughter of Chief Minister Anandiben Patel.AICC has also been using the issue to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi accusing him, time and again, of “blatantly plundering” public land when he was Gujarat Chief Minister. It has been demanding a Supreme Court-monitored SIT probe.The party also wanted Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel to resign or be sacked immediately to ensure a fair probe. Its stand is that allotment of 250 acres of government land next to ‘Gir Lion Sanctuary’ “without following any procedure or valuation or price determination for a pittance” was in gross violation of all norms, procedures and regulations governing allotment of public land.Party sources said AICC was not happy with the way party MLAs were “lukewarm” to its direction in the initial days of the Assembly session and were made it known that their working was being monitored and it could have a bearing on their renomination.The Congress high command’s direction bore a belated result towards the end of March when 55 of the party’s MLAs present in the Gujarat Assembly were suspended for the rest of the session after they shouted slogans in support of Patel quota agitation and waved placards on the Anar Patel issue.The suspension on March 30 took place just a day before the session was to conclude. They displayed banners with ‘Hardik ne Jail, Anar ne Mehel’ (Hardik in jail, Anar Patel in palace) written on it and engaged in aggressive slogan-shouting. Hardik leads the pro-Patel quota stir and is in jail on charges of sedition.Incidentally, the AAP is also raising the issue as part of its attempt to make inroads into the western state where the politics has, by and large, been bipolar for the last many years.Out of power for 20 years, the Congress made a stunning comeback in the rural areas in December last year by winning 21 of the 31 district panchayats. The BJP had won 30 district panchayats in the previous elections in 2010.The loss in Panchayati Raj bodies in Gujarat had come more than a year after Modi, who ruled the state for 12 straight years, shifted to Delhi in May 2014. The Congress was virtually obliterated from all tiers of power structure in the state after losing almost every election to the BJP in the 12 years before that when Modi helmed the state.

82 incidents of tiger attacking human in last 3 years

As many as 82 incidents of tiger attacks on humans have been reported in different parts of the country in the last three years, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said on Tuesday.Among these incidents, 28 have been reported in 2014-15, 33 in 2013-14 and 21 in 2012-13, he said in Lok Sabha during Question Hour.Javadekar said the National Tiger Conservation Authority has a multi-pronged strategy to deal with human-wildlife conflict including habitat interventions, restricting habitat interventions, material and logistical support besides others.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Based on the carrying capacity of tigers in a reserve forest, habitat interventions are restricted through an overarching Tiger Conservation Plan, he said.In case tiger numbers are at carrying capacity levels, it is advised that habitat interventions should be limited so that there is no excessive spillover of wildlife, including tigers, thereby minimising man-animal conflict.”Further, in buffer areas around tiger reserves, habitat interventions are restricted so that they are sub-optimal vis-a-vis the core tiger habitat areas, judicious enough to facilitate dispersal to other rich habitat areas,” he said.Javadekar said the central government through the National Tiger Conservation Authority has operationalised and funded setting up of Electronic Eye (E-eye) surveillance in Corbett and Kaziranga Tiger Reserves along with Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.Besides observing the movement of tigers and other animals, E-eye acts as an early warning system wherein movement of poachers and intruders can be viewed before they reach the sensitive areas of tiger reserves, thereby checking any wildife crime.It also helps in monitoring dispersal of wild animals in human habitations. This facility may be replicated in other tiger reserves also, if needed, he said.

At least 310 lions died in Gujarat in last five years

Gujarat, the last abode of the Asiatic lions, has lost over 300 lions, including cubs in the last five years, the state Assembly was informed on Friday.Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel, in a written reply, said 310 lions, including cubs, as well as 547 leopards died due to natural or unnatural causes in the last five years (as on March 2015). He was replying to a written query submitted by Tejashree Patel (Congress) during the ongoing budget session of the Assembly.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Of the 310 lions, 25 died due to unnatural reasons and number of leopards falling in this category stood at 121. The causes of unnatural deaths varied from falling into open wells, being hit by trains or vehicles to electrocution, the minister said.Replying to a related question raised by the Congress MLA, the government said six lions and cubs have died after being hit by trains outside Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, the last abode of the big cats.Four leopards and five crocodiles met the same fate on railway tracks during the last five years, it said.To a question by Raghavjee Patel (Congress), the minister said, as many as 10 lions died after they were swept away in flood waters in Bhavnagar and Amreli district during the June 2015 deluge in Saurashtra region.Patel maintained that various measures are being taken to save these wild cats from mishaps. These included covering open wells with parapet wall, building speed breakers on roads near the sanctuary, putting fence on both sides of rail tracks on some routes and identifying electric fences illegally put up by farmers near the reserves to stop lions from entering in their fields, he said.

When tigers and leopards come to farmer’s help

It’s not just the farm-dogs that is farmer’s best friend. A study in Umred Karhandla wildlife sanctuary – located about 58 kilometres away from Nagpur and spread over 180 sqkm – has found how important tigers and leopards too are for the farmers, who worry about protecting their crops from the depredations of herbivores.The scientific study of fecal samples of three major carnivores – tigers, leopards and wild dogs – in the sanctuary to determine their prey selection pattern has pointed to how blue bulls (nilgais) and wild boars, which damage crops, form a substantial part of the prey of tigers and leopards.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The study, conducted by Prajakta Hoshangabadkar, a junior research fellow with the Pench Tiger Conservation Foundation, analysed 24 tiger droppings along with those of leopards (11 samples) and wild dogs (five) in the sanctuary located near Nagpur.Of the 24 tiger samples analysed, 13 contained nilgai hair, followed by chital (five), wild boar (three), cattle (two) and sambhar (one). Nilgai hair also figured in four leopard samples, followed by chital (three), wild boar (two) and one each of sambar and cattle. Chital (three) and sambar (two) accounted for the prey of wild dogs.The scat analysis revealed that while smaller carnivores (wild dogs) were almost 100% dependent on deer species like sambar and chital, a large number of nilgai hair was found in tiger and leopard fecal samples. This proves that a healthy presence of carnivores helps regulate numbers of herbivores like blue bulls who damage the standing crops of farmers on the periphery of forests.”Where there is a healthy presence of carnivores, the herbivore population is under check… Otherwise, these nilgai and wild boars would have gone into fields which adjoin the sanctuary and damaged crops,” said a senior forest department official. “They also prevent the numbers of nilgai from increasing, which in turn, would have led to greater crop damage,” he added.The study pointed to how carnivores were feeding on nilgai, other deer species and wild boar and were not dependent on cattle reared by people from adjoining villages as it was believed.Umred-Karhandla presently has one male, three females and nine sub-adult tigers apart from eight leopards, as identified in camera traps.”Where there are no predators, there is a problem,” the official noted. Lack of density of prey like wild boar also led to leopards lifting dogs for food.”Tigers also provide employment to locals. No tigers means no tourists and no tourists means no money,” he said, adding that around 100 people are employed in tourism industry in the Umred Karhandla wildlife sanctuary.