Sunday, April 27, 2008

Wildlife park visitors pay £100 to see lions kill tethered cattle

British tourists are paying more than £100 to watch endangered Asian lions kill tethered cattle at an Indian wildlife reserve.

According to local officials, some visitors eat lunch at dining tables as they watch cows and buffalo being devoured.

Animal welfare groups have expressed outrage, saying such gruesome displays break the law and are not only cruel to cattle but also put the lions in jeopardy by bringing them closer to humans. They blame western tourists for encouraging the practice.

According to conservationists, the shows are being organised by tour guides and farmers in collusion with junior park officials.

Only about 360 lions survive in India from a subspecies that once ranged from Greece through the Caucasus and into China. It is now confined to the Gir national park in Gujarat, western India, where the incomes of villagers depend on frequent sightings.

To ensure that tourists do not go home disappointed, tour guides are offering “baitwalla shows”, in which the lions are lured out of the forest towards villages on the outskirts of their sanctuary by cattle tied to tractors.

When the lion picks up the scent, the cow is dragged towards the tour group waiting close by and finally untied so that the tourists can watch it being caught, killed and eaten from as little as 10ft away.

The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) denounced the tours and called on the Indian government’s forest conservator to ban them.

Jaya Sinha, a spokesman for Peta, called on western tourists to give up their “lion and tiger mania”, which, he said, was putting pressure on guides to guarantee big-cat sightings.

“It’s not just the Gir lions. It’s the same in the tiger reserves: there’s a tiger mania. The cats are shy animals, but the tourists go crazy if they don’t see one,” he said.

Using live cattle as bait for protected animals is prohibited under India’s wildlife laws, but the fines are paltry. One act carries a fine of just £1.

Nobody has ever been convicted of the offence.

Domesticated animals such as cows and goats are also banned from the lion sanctuary because of fears that they may spread foot and mouth disease.

The lions’ hunting grounds have been shrunk in recent years by intense cattle grazing, which has led to a cycle of lions eating cows, and cattle farmers killing lions.

According to Peta, local farmers were conspiring with officials to charge tourists for using their cattle as bait, and then claim government compensation under a scheme to protect the lions. For each cow sold as bait, many are also receiving an extra £60 in government compensation.

Maniswar Raja, the official responsible for protecting the lions, said he was conducting an investigation to establish which officials and tour guides were involved in the shows.

“We’re responsible for the lions inside and outside the national park, so it’s a matter of great concern to us,” he said.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Trap Set To Catch Mountain Lion Roaming Hayward

A trap was set Friday afternoon in hopes of catching a mountain lion that has killed at least two animals in Hayward this week, officials said.

The first sighting occurred at 6:43 p.m. Sunday when a resident witnessed the mountain lion in the backyard of his home in the 1100 block of Garin Avenue, according to police. California Department of Fish and Game personnel viewed videotape provided by the resident and confirmed that the animal was a mountain lion.

Then, about 8 p.m. Wednesday, a resident in the 30000 block of Woodthrush Place reported a mountain lion killed a goat and dragged it away, police said. Officials confirmed that the goat was missing from the property.

Fish and Game spokesman Steve Martarano said that the department went to the residence Friday to discuss issuing a depredation permit, allowing the homeowner to have the mountain lion trapped or killed within 10 days if the mountain lion returns to the property.

However, Fish and Game officials determined that what was left of the goat carcass was too old to be used in a trap, so a permit was not issued.

Shortly afterward, a homeowner a few miles from Woodthrush Place reported that a mountain lion had killed a lamb, Martarano said. The homeowner apparently heard the mountain lion around 3 a.m., and officials believe the lamb was killed by the same mountain lion, Martarano said.

The county has a contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services to trap animals in such cases, and the USDA notified Fish and Game to issue a depredation permit.

The permit was issued and the trap set with a lamb carcass inside, according to Martarano. The mountain lion would likely return overnight or early morning to feed on the carcass, he said.

The depredation permit allows officials to shoot the mountain lion after it is caught, he said.

Mountain lion attacks on people are rare, however officials are cautioning residents not to approach a mountain lion and instead head indoors and call 911.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Save the Tiger

Save the Tiger

MEP Gill calls for greater EU-Coordinated action
21 April 2008 - Issue : 778

The European Parliament has called for a new strategy to prevent the tiger from becoming extinct. MEP Neena Gill, President of the European Parliament's India Delegation, held a special "Tiger Day" in the European Parliament on April 16, where she called for greater EU-coordinated action to prevent the tiger from becoming extinct.

Combining a lively meetings and events to raise awareness of the depleting numbers of tigers across Asia, and to discuss EU support to tackle the issue, Gill was joined by Valmik Thapar and Grace de Gabriel, two of the world's leading tiger experts, who flew in from India and China respectively to address the European Parliament, sharing their concern about the tiger's future.

Gill told her audience, "Losing the tiger would be a global tragedy. Therefore, I am calling on the European Union to develop a comprehensive strategy to tackle this issue. This would include at the very least the following five steps:

-Provide technical assistance to tiger states in enforcing and analysing criminal networks
-Provide financial assistance to aid in the protection of wild tigers
-Urge India and China at the highest political level to continue to take action in tackling organised "tiger trafficking mafias," and to increase enforcement of laws
- Call on all countries involved, and especially India, China and Nepal, to cooperate on tackling this issue through collaborative strategies to combat cross border trafficking
- Raise awareness and education worldwide on the immediate threat facing tigers, in order to change attitudes towards consumption and decrease demand in China and other consuming nations."

According to The Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) (http://www.wpsi-india- .org/wpsi/index.php), India holds over half the world's tiger population. Citing the latest tiger census report released on February 12, 2008 by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the WPSI stated on its website, "Current tiger population stands at 1,411 (i.e. ranging between a minimum of 1,165 to a maximum of 1,657)."

Moreover, recent undercover investigations by the WPSI and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) revealed that the trade in tiger and leopard body parts in China continues to thrive, operating without any hindrance from the Chinese government whilst driving India's wild tigers closer towards extinction.

"With the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, the world's attention is on China. We must raise this issue with the authorities and ensure they do not lift the ban on trade in tiger products which would prove disastrous to global efforts to save the tiger," commented Gill.

"Tigers are one of the world's most adored animals. We must act now before it is too late. We owe it to future generations to give them the opportunity to marvel at them as we have done. "Although the European Union is not a major consumer of tiger parts or products, it can still play an important role in the fight to save these wonderful animals. By increasing financial and technical assistance to those working in tiger conservation, encouraging high level political dialogue between tiger states, and by operating more effectively through existing international bodies, it can make a huge contribution. The tiger is a global icon, and I want Tiger Day to be the kick start that allows it to endure as one," added Gill.

Some reports put the number of tigers in India around 50,000 a century ago while the country is said to be home to 40 percent of the world's tigers, with 23 tiger reserves in 17 states.

Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now.

Tamil Nadu at the forefront of tiger conservation

Tamil Nadu at the forefront of tiger conservation

April 22, 2008

TThe Tiger is vanishing from our jungles. That is the story in the rest of the country. But in Tamil Nadu, it is said to be increasing according to a recent report. There are three Tiger reserves in Tamil Nadu, two of which have been notified only recently.
But how have they have increased in this state? The concerned official says 'by leaving them alone'.

We went to visit the Kallakad-Mundanthurai Tiger sanctuary in the Western Ghats. It shares a long border with Kerala and what is special about this sanctuary is that as many as 14 rivers originate from its area. Thus there is no water shortage throughout the year.

C Bhadrasamy has been in the forest department for 27 long years. He is the Deputy Director of this sanctuary. "There are no positive steps that you can take to make Tigers breed, but you can create an environment of least disturbance for them," he said.

He goes on to say, "By nature, Tamil Nadu is a law-abiding state. So it is easier to protect the Tiger here. Do you know that the RPF is the second largest armed force in the country after the Army? They still cannot maintain discipline and safety in the North. But we with a very small team can protect the Tiger here. The reason is the self -discipline of the people of this state."

"Protection is total and complete here. Though we do have a lot of practical difficulties, we have ensured that the Tiger has an undisturbed habitat for breeding. Another advantage we have over other states is that we do not have a problem with extremists. They usually hide in the forests. And as they use arms, their presence is highly disturbing to the animal kingdom," he says.

Text : A Ganesh Nadars Photograph : Devendra M Singh/AFP/Getty Images

Also read: It's a shame we can't protect our national animal

April 22, 2008

TThe Tiger is vanishing from our jungles. That is the story in the rest of the country. But in Tamil Nadu, it is said to be increasing according to a recent report. There are three Tiger reserves in Tamil Nadu, two of which have been notified only recently.
But how have they have increased in this state? The concerned official says 'by leaving them alone'.

We went to visit the Kallakad-Mundanthurai Tiger sanctuary in the Western Ghats. It shares a long border with Kerala and what is special about this sanctuary is that as many as 14 rivers originate from its area. Thus there is no water shortage throughout the year.

C Bhadrasamy has been in the forest department for 27 long years. He is the Deputy Director of this sanctuary. "There are no positive steps that you can take to make Tigers breed, but you can create an environment of least disturbance for them," he said.

He goes on to say, "By nature, Tamil Nadu is a law-abiding state. So it is easier to protect the Tiger here. Do you know that the RPF is the second largest armed force in the country after the Army? They still cannot maintain discipline and safety in the North. But we with a very small team can protect the Tiger here. The reason is the self -discipline of the people of this state."

"Protection is total and complete here. Though we do have a lot of practical difficulties, we have ensured that the Tiger has an undisturbed habitat for breeding. Another advantage we have over other states is that we do not have a problem with extremists. They usually hide in the forests. And as they use arms, their presence is highly disturbing to the animal kingdom," he says.

Text : A Ganesh Nadars Photograph : Devendra M Singh/AFP/Getty Images

Also read: It's a shame we can't protect our national animal

Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now.

Experts demand new tiger reserve

Experts demand new tiger reserve

Statesman News Service

BHUBANESWAR, April 21: Immediate notification of the Satkosia-Baisipalli forest area as Tiger Reserve, submission of proposal by the government for the Sunabeda sanctuary to be covered under Project Tiger and marking of tiger habitats to ensure that such areas are isolated from forest diversion proposals were some of the points made by wildlife experts at a recently held symposium here.

The symposium organised by Wild Orissa, a society for conservation of nature and wildlife also urged upon the state government to notify the forests of 'Narayanpatna', Gupteswar, 'Gandhamardhan', 'Kapilash', 'Malayagiri' and 'Chandrapur' as sanctuaries.

Taking note of the fact that the 'State Wildlife Board' has been defunct since long, the participants wanted the government to expeditiously constitute the Board and convene a meeting to discuss on these issues.

Justifying the demand for Sunabeda sanctuary to be a second project tiger zone, the Wild Orissa activists noted that it harbours the second highest number of tigers after Simlipal.

This patch of forests is contiguous with the Udanti-Sitanadi sanctuaries in Chhatisgarh through the Khariar forests, and with Udanti-Sitanadi having been cleared for inclusion under the Project Tiger scheme by the steering committee, there is an urgent need for placing the Sunabeda forests under the Project Tiger scheme, they noted.

These contiguous patch are potential rich habitats for Hard Footed Barasingha and Wild Buffalo.

With regards to Similipal Tiger Reserve, the symposium suggested that there was urgent need for improved co-ordination between various government agencies. Relocation of remaining villages in the core area should be completed within a time frame along with livelihood programmes for relocated families to minimise on limiting factors of Tiger Reserve.

Deliberating on the perennial staff shortage problem, the symposium suggested strengthening of field staff and introduction of a system of rewards and recognition in the line of 'President's Medal', 'Governor's Medal' and 'Forest Medal' (like Police Medal) for those posted in remote tiger reserve areas. There are a large number of vacancies among the field staff in the forest department and the average age of staff at present is quite high, which impedes their efficiency in difficult and inhospitable terrain, observed participants.

All the field officers in tiger habitats should be given immunity of using firearms for wildlife protection. A dedicated well trained 'Forest Protection Force' need to be created immediately. Magisterial powers to Wildlife Wardens and ACF's should also be given for the protected areas. All arms license within 10 Kms of protected areas should be cancelled, suggested the panel. The Wild Orissa also pleaded for establishment of a forensic laboratory' in Orissa for wildlife crimes.

Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now.

Euro MPs urged to save tigers

Euro MPs urged to save tigers
Page last updated at 10:45 GMT, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 11:45 UK
MEPs are being urged to use their influence to force nations with wild tiger populations to halt poaching and the illegal trade in tiger parts.
The European Parliament's first Tiger Day is being held to focus attention on the plight of the endangered animals.
Scientists estimate that only 2,500 breeding adults are left in the wild.
However, campaigners say tiger numbers could reach 10,000 within a decade if attempts to protect the animals receive additional support and resources.
'Tiger farms'
There are growing fears among campaign groups that some nations, such as China, could soon legalise the trade in farmed tiger parts.
"A few Chinese businessmen who invest in industrialised tiger farming are petitioning the government to lift a 15-year trade ban that has successfully reduced the market for tiger parts used in traditional Chinese medicine," said Grace Ge Gabriel from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw).
"Overturning the trade ban would open the floodgates of consumption, and stimulate more poaching of wild tigers."
Dirk Sterckx, a Belgian MEP and chairman of the Parliament's Delegation to China, said it was "absolutely essential" for China to support the international efforts to save wild tigers.
"I would urge the Chinese authorities to fulfill their international obligations by declaring their commitment to the 1993 ban on the trade in tiger parts," he commented, "and by destroying existing stockpiles of tiger parts."
Alasdair Cameron, from the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), called for the phasing out of China's tiger farms.
"It is essential that all parties, including the European Parliament, do all that they can to prevent the extinction of the wild tiger and other Asian big cats," he said.
During the course of Brussels Tiger Day, which is being hosted by UK MEP Neena Gill, politicians are being invted to a range of events, including a meeting with a number of the world's leading experts on tigers.
End of the tiger tale?
13 Jun 07 Science/Nature
Tiger numbers 'halve in 25 years'
12 Mar 08 Science/Nature
Vietnam zoo auctioned dead tigers
10 Jan 08 Asia-Pacific

Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now.

'Act now' to save India's tigers

'Act now' to save India's tigers

The European Parliament has called for a new strategy to prevent the tiger from becoming extinct.

The organisation's India delegation is holding a "Tiger Day" at the European Parliament in Brussels.

Indian government figures show the country's tiger population has fallen hugely in the past five years with only 1,411 tigers left in the wild.

Wildlife activists blame poaching and urbanisation for the decline and say the authorities must do more.

'Trafficking mafia'

"Recent figures show... by 2025 the tiger may be extinct," Neena Gill, president of the European Parliament's India delegation, said.

"India alone cannot tackle this looming extinction. It is time for the European Union to take a stronger role in the international drive to save the tiger," she said.

Ms Gill's office said that one of the chief causes of the declining numbers of tigers is the presence of "tiger trafficking mafias" in Asia who are poaching Indian tigers, trafficking skins and body parts across Nepal and the Himalayan region to China.

China is a big marker for tiger skins and bones which are sold at a profit of 900%.

Tiger skins and other body parts sell for thousands of dollars

It says that China is under pressure from its tiger "farmers" to lift its existing ban on the trade in tiger parts and legalise it.

But conservationists say such a move would devastate the wild tiger population by causing an upturn in demand for tiger products and increasing poaching in the wild.

"With the run up to the Beijing Olympics, the world's attention is on China. We must raise this issue with the authorities and ensure they do not lift the ban on trade in tiger products which would prove disastrous to global efforts to save the tiger," says Ms Gill.

"Losing the tiger would be a global tragedy. Therefore, I am calling on the European Union to develop a comprehensive strategy to tackle this issue."


Meanwhile, police in the northern Uttar Pradesh state say they have seized 20 skins of tigers and leopards.

The recovery was made in Pratapgarh district, 200km (124 miles) east of the state capital Lucknow.

Police have also arrested two people who, they said, were trying to smuggle out the skins to Nepal.

According to the latest Indian government figures released in February, the number of tigers in the wild has fallen to 1,411 - down from 3,642 in the last major survey in 2002.

Last year, federal authorities announced the creation of a special force to protect tigers. But it is unclear whether this strategy has worked.

Experts blame the government for failing to crack down on poachers and the illegal trade in tiger skins.

Tigers are poached for their body parts - skins are prized for fashion and tiger bones are used for oriental medicines.

Tiger pelts can fetch up to $12,500 in China.

According to reports, there were 40,000 tigers in India a century ago.

The country is home to 40% of the world's tigers, with 23 tiger reserves in 17 states.

India tiger population declines 13 Feb 08 South Asia
Indian tiger skins 'sold abroad' 22 Sep 05 South Asia
India to probe wildlife poacher 01 Jul 05 South Asia
Indian agency to protect tigers 25 Jun 05 South Asia
The threat to India's main tiger centre 05 May 05 South Asia
India investigates tiger decline 29 Apr 05 South Asia

European Parliament
Wildlife Protection Society Of India
Wildlife Institute of India

Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now.

Rare leopards captured by camera in east Siberia

A camera trap in Kedrovaya Pad reserve has captured rare footage of one of the world’s most endangered cats.
Eight Far Eastern Leopards were photographed in the reserve, located in the Primorsky Krai, during a census being conducted by WWF-Russia and the Institute for Sustainable Use of Nature Resources.

For Pavel Fomenko, coordinator of the biodiversity conservation program at the Armur branch of WWF-Russia, “the confirmed stability of the leopard population living in the territories of Kedrovaya Pad biosphere reserve and Barsovyi wildlife refuge warm our hearts and give hopes.”

“But this is only a small part of the leopard’s habitat in the southwest Primorsky. The remaining 70 per cent of leopard’s habitat are in precarious conditions.”

“The goal of utmost importance to create a unified federal protected area for the Far Eastern leopard has not yet been achieved in Primorsky”, said Fomenko.

Over the past years, scientists have been monitoring the rare cat’s plight using camera traps to develop effective measures to its conservation.

As tigers and leopards’ coloration is individual, the pictures are a way to compare and identify specimen. “The information we receive from camera traps can be processed through mathematic methods. So, by comparing the different photographs taken at different intervals, we can estimate the real number of leopards living in a certain area”, said Vladimir Aramilev, Head of the Institute for Sustainable Use of Nature Resources.

Another man-eating leopard captured

Coimbatore, April 25 (IANS) The second of two leopards which killed a young girl here has been captured and sent to the Chennai zoo, an official said Friday. The 18-month-old animal was trapped in a cage Thursday following complaints of movements of man-eating animals in human habitations bordering the forests of Valparai, 25 km from here), a wildlife warden said.

Five-year-old Gowri was gored to death Tuesday by two leopards, of which one was captured and transported to the zoo in Chennai April 16. The leopard captured Thursday is suspected to be the second killer.

Poachers on prowl again

SASAN: The Asiatic lion may be under threat again. Over 200 members of the Baheliya tribes, who were suspected to have killed lions in the Gir forest last year, are back.

There are intelligence inputs indicating their camps in and around the forest, which have put the Junagadh district police and forest department on vigil.

An alert has been sounded in the villages around the Gir National Park to look out for Baheliyas who are labourers from Madhya Pradesh.

Officials from the forest department confirmed that with the sugarcane harvesting season already on, a large number of labourers from MP are camping in Saurashtra.

On March 3, 2007, carcasses of three lions were found in the forest. The lions were killed by poachers in the Babaria range under Gir West Forest division. On March 29 the same year, three more lions were killed in the same area of the forest, followed by two more on April 12, on the outskirts of Bhandariya village near Jesar town in Bhavnagar.

The CID (crime), which was probing the incidents, had written a letter to inspector general of police (Junagadh range) Mohan Jha last year about the Baheliya community being "actively involved" in poaching of Asiatic lions in Gir sanctuary. This community, apart from working in the fields, indulges in poaching of wild animals under the garb of selling traditional medicines and toys.

Jha told TOI: "This year the police are on alert and watching the activities of the labourers." Conservator of Forest Bharat Pathak refused such intelligence inputs.

But said that the forest department was using local NGOs to keep a watch on these tribes.Kanubhai Sanabhai, sarpanch of Vadal village in Akolwadi range, said the villagers are alert now.

Burning bright

Contrary to popular belief, Europe is not powerless to prevent the extinction of the tiger, as the inaugural Tiger Day illustrated.

Cross-party consensus is a rare thing in the European parliament. But sometimes an issue arises that allows tribal lines to be crossed and party colours to be ignored. Last week, when I hosted the inaugural Tiger Day in Brussels, was one of those occasions.

As chair of the delegation for EU relations with India, I had known for some time that tiger numbers in Asia were falling. However, it wasn't until a census was published in February that the full extent of this decline became apparent. Where 40,000 tigers had once roamed, estimates now indicated that there could be as few as 1,400 left.

A myriad of factors have left the tiger - voted "the world's favourite animal" in 2004 - in such a perilous state. With an appetite for status symbols to match its size, the huge emerging Chinese middle-class has made tiger skins a valuable commodity. And profits are huge, too. A poacher can make up to $16,000 on a tiger skin that costs him as little as $1,600 to obtain. With fines as small as $1,000, legal deterrents are often useless.

Most European citizens are united in their condemnation of the use of tiger products for fashion and decoration. But the profit doesn't end there. Stripping away the iconic skin, poachers find another commodity: tiger bone. Despite a lack of scientific evidence, Chinese medicine continues to subscribe to the myth that the bone has pharmaceutical benefits. This belief may well lead to the tiger's extinction.

So Europeans have as much a right to fear for the tiger as anyone. What's more, we have much to bring to the struggle. Centuries of scientific progress have taught us that medicine must be based on empirical fact rather than legend or faith. To bring this argument to bear is not to trample on Asian practices through a new form of cultural imperialism. Rather, it is to speak truth to the vanities of the Chinese middle-class. Many Chinese people now have new and more liberal economic rights. They need to start practising the economic responsibility to match.

What can the EU do about the decimation of a wildlife population thousands of miles away from Europe? Since I've been involved with this campaign, I've been asked this question many times. I always respond with one of my own: who else can act, if the EU doesn't? Europe can play the role of disinterested partner more convincingly than regional powers. As a case in point, the Chinese government was recently lobbied to drop its ban on the trade in tiger parts by tiger farmers (you read that right - the animals are now farmed for their skin). By its very nature the EU also has the skills, resources and expertise to advise how best to tackle cross-border smuggling.

European parliament Tiger Day has been and gone, but as far as I am concerned we have only just started. I have called on the EU to adopt a series of measures against the trade, and to support the excellent work that environmental groups are carrying out. Only through cooperation will we ensure that the tiger remains a symbol of beauty for generations to come.

Gujarat govt orders probe into 'lion shows'

VADODARA: Gujarat government has ordered a probe after reports in a section of the media said that baits are being used to draw lions at particular spots to attract tourists in Gir National Park.

Chief Conservator of the Forests (Wildlife) Pradeep Khanna said that an inquiry would be conducted into the "lion show" using baits for drawing tourists and action would be taken against those found guilty.

According to recent reports, some gangs were allegedly charging hefty sums from tourists for giving them a glimpse of the lions at Gir National Park in Junagadh district, by using baits to bring the beasts to a particular place, where tourists can easily see them, following which government swung into action.

"I have asked top wildlife officials of the forest department to visit Gir to look into the allegations and find out the truth," Principal Secretary, Forest and Environment Department S K Nanda said adding necessary steps will be taken after conducting an enquiry into the matter.

Meanwhile, Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel said that there are no organised gangs involved in luring lions for tourists by using baits.

He also added that it is a tendency among people to gather at spots where a group of lions are feeding on the cattle after they have killed one.

However, Patel said that following the reports, two district forest officials in the area have been asked to keep a vigil on the activities in the park.

Heat wave, water crisis hit wildlife in Orissa

Bhubaneswar ( Orissa) : With the increase in mercury, sun stroke death toll moving northwords in the State. The intense heat wave and declining water lavel in many reservoirs combinely spelling hard and hostile time to both people and wildlife equally in Orissa.

There is no respite of heat waves to wild animals. With each passing day wild animals including Elephants and Tigers in State's several Reserves and Wildlife Sanctuaries are now facing shortage of water.

The water crisis in many part of the state in this summer summer has been driving animals out of their habitat to quench their thirst but non-availability of waters has hit the daily life of wild animals and most of aged elephants and big cats have reportedly been suffering a lot.

"The situation in most forests is upsetting and disturbing as animals become more at risk to poaching and hunting once they step out of their natural habitat during summer," several wildlife activists said in Bhubaneswar.

More than 5,000 animals are killed every year as wildlife managers and officers fail to monitor the situation or take timely measures, they said.

They have also demanded Forest Department should chart out a water regime map with details of water-levels of each stream, river and locations of water pools and game tanks in different months.

Meanwhile, Satkosia Tiger Reserve region, rich in bio-diversity, is in grip of gnawing fire since past weeks. It is alleged that lack of precautionary measures by Forest Department authorities is the main cause behind it.

Both flora and fauna are in a state of peril. The anti-fire fighting measures this year seems to be absent going by the severity of fire there, feels wild life activists.

Reports say that forest fire is on at more than 40 places in the sanctuary. The worst affected areas are Kuru, Baghamunda, Pampasar, Raigoda, Labangi, Tuluka, Tikarapara, Majhipara, Godabhanga and Routbahal reserve forest areas.

The spreading fire associated with mercury touching 44 degree in forest has made the lives of animal population precarious.

Animals also reportedly face acute shortage of water.

Ironically there has been no Divisional Forest Officer in Satkosia Wildlife Division for last six months after the exit of Sushanat Nanda. The DFO of Angul Forest Division S Mishra is in charge of Satkosia since then, official sources said.

Official in Wildlife Wing of the State Forest Department however maintained that there were reports of Deer, Sambhar, Barking Deer and even Elephants moving out of their habitats in Keonjhar, Koraput, Nowrangpur, Dhenkanal, Athmalik, Sundergarh, Sambalpur, Rairakhol, Kalahandi, Daspalla, Khandhamal, Khariar and Ghumsur forests. The situation in Simplipal forests, which is endowed with abundant water resources, however, has less acute.

The pachyderm population stands to suffer the most in the elephant corridors of Keonjhar, Narsinghpur, Athmalik, Dhenkanal, Kotagarh, Satkosia and Pallahara.

Forest Department personnel said that they have spotted three bodies of tuskers in the fringes of Athagarh Forest Division near Nuagada, Dalijoda and Khuntuni in the past week.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rabid bobcat attacks two local hikers

The two University of Arizona scientists first spotted the eyes.

It was a bobcat, staring at Katrina Mangin and Rich Thompson as they hiked Saturday through one of their favorite spots in the Santa Rita Mountains, south of Gardner Canyon.

Thompson, 46, immediately knew he and his wife were in trouble.

"Rabid bobcat!'' Thompson, a geologist, shouted to Mangin, a 54-year-old marine biologist.

"Watch out!''

The next 10 minutes, the couple fought off the bobcat before Thompson pinned it to the ground with a stick and killed it with a hammer from his backpack. Tests later determined the animal was rabid.

"It wasn't hard to figure out that there was no choice but to fight it to the death because it was so persistent," he said. "It's very sad. This poor kitty cat was deranged by its disease-riddled brain. I love the native cats. It was terrible to have to kill it."

Pima County Health officials last week warned of an increase in rabies cases this year. Thirty-eight rabid animals had been found near the Pima-Pinal county line as of April 18, officials said, double the number from the period in 2007.

The ordeal began Saturday afternoon for Mangin and Thompson. The latter is known in the scientific community for discovering a dinosaur near Sonoita in 1994 that was later named after him - Sonorasaurus thompsoni. He and Mangin planned to camp in the mountains. When they arrived, they left the car packed and headed off on a hike with their dogs: Lily, an Australian shepherd mix, and Violet, a German shepherd mix.

On the way back, about a mile from the car, Mangin spotted the bobcat staring at them.
"I knew immediately it was a rabid bobcat and we were in trouble," Thompson said.

How did he know?
"I have no idea,'' he said. "But it was totally obvious to me."

While there was no frothing at the mouth, the cat's behavior was odd, Thompson said. It was not afraid of the hikers. They tried to get away from the bobcat, but it pursued them. It lunged at Mangin, climbing up her legs and wrapping its body around her, clawing and biting.
"It just jumped on me and sunk its teeth in my calf," she said. "It seemed unreal. I grabbed it off of my leg and threw it. It jumped back on me. I was screaming and gasping. I was so terrified."
Thompson used his backpack to knock the cat off his wife. He hollered for her to take the dogs, which stood by during the attack.

Mangin and the pets ran up a hill, with the cat in pursuit. Thompson got between the cat and his wife, and it jumped on his back. "I hit it with the backpack over my shoulder," he said. The cat fell to the dirt and lunged again. "It attacked me again, and I threw it down." Thompson finally was forced to kill the animal. The frantic attack covered an area of about 100 yards, he said. Both were wearing long pants and sleeves, reducing the extent of the injuries.

Thompson knew he should remove the bobcat, to prevent infecting other animals who might feed on it. But it continued to twitch, and they knew they needed immediate medical help.
They drove to University Medical Center, where they were given anti-rabies shots and strong antibiotics were prescribed. Rabies immune globulin was injected into each puncture area. Thompson received six injections in his hand, back, lower buttock, thigh and calf. Mangin received injections in her leg. They each received another injection Tuesday and will get three more doses. While painful, the shots were not as bad as Mangin expected.

"We're both very grateful for modern medicine," she said. Thompson said the emergency room staff at UMC was "wonderful." The couple returned to the mountain the next day with Mark Friedberg, wildlife manager with the Arizona Game & Fish Department. Friedberg bagged the cat's undisturbed remains.

An attack by a rabid animal "is definitely kind of rare," Friedberg said, adding Tucsonans shouldn't be deterred from spending time outdoors. Though he has not seen an increase in cases of rabies this spring, Friedberg advised people to be aware of odd behavior in wildlife. "The best thing you can do is protect yourself any way you can if you come across a rabid animal," he said.
Thompson and Mangin were wise to seek medical care as quickly as possible, Friedberg said. "It definitely can be fatal if you don't get it treated immediately." The pair said they will return to the area, but it won't be without some fear - and a couple of big sticks.

"I don't want people to be afraid to go hiking," said Mangin, a marine biologist in the UA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, who coordinates science outreach to K-12 schools for the College of Science. "It is so rare to be bitten by a rabid animal. It's one of those struck-by-lightning kinds of things," she said.

As man continues to encroach on the habitats of wild animals, there will be similar incidents, Mangin said.

"If you really want to have wild areas, every once in a while there will be an encounter with wild animals," she said. "There's a trade-off involved. It's a privilege to live here, and it's completely worth the risk to have such wonderful natural resources available to us."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

To spot the Bengal tigers, visit Borivali National Park

To spot the Bengal tigers, visit Borivali National Park

Nitya Kaushik
Posted online: Wednesday, April 16, 2008 at 12:33:17
Updated: Wednesday, April 16, 2008 at 12:33:17

Mumbai, April 15 You don't have to visit the Kanha National Park or the Sunderbans to catch a glimpse of the royal tiger any more.

The Sanjay Gandhi National Park at Borivali, as part of its Rs 5-crore five-year scheme to promote eco-tourism in Mumbai, is displaying two of its newly acquired yellow Bengal tigers on its tiger safari trails.

So, if you take a trip now, in SGNP's well-secured mini-bus, chances are you will find a full-grown, wild yellow tiger burning bright in a water-hole less than one metre away from you. The tiger couple -- a male called Palash and a female called Basanti –- was acquired from the Vanvihar National Park, Bhopal, in exchange for two white tiger cubs, about one-and-a-half years ago. A third yellow tiger named Shiva was confiscated from a circus in Kankvli, Konkan region, said Dr Kishor Batwe, wildlife veterinarian of SGNP.

Range forest officer D L Rathod added that the tiger couple was let out last week after an entire year of rigourous training and conditioning to ensure that they are fit for display.

The national park now has nine tigers – six white and three yellow – in its premises. Batwe said: "Since 1998, the SGNP has been having safaris in the park but in a low-key manner. Till recently, we only had white tigers on display but these species are not the 'real' species as most of them are born in captivity. Unlike the yellow tigers that are born to be wild, white tigers can't survive in the jungle. One striking evidence to this is the lack of camouflage – due to the stark white colour, the white tiger can't blend into its ambience."

Batwe stated that in an effort to introduce a new attraction to the people they decided to acquire the Bengal tigers.

According to the doctor, training of the tigers is a complicated process that requires time and patience. "Initially, we used to have nine separate cages of 10 ft x12 ft for each tiger and one open area for the safari bus to ply on. We have now built larger secondary cages and two tertiary cages where the tigers can be released to acquaint them to the visitors' buses. When they learn to relax in the presence of visitors, we will let them into the open area," he said, adding that yellow tigers are now ready to be released here.

The annual budget allocated for eco-tourism is Rs 1.37 crore, which will be spent on updating several activities in the park, Conservator of Forest Dr P N Munde said.

"The budget includes maintenance of the park, upgradation of the information centre, documentations among other operations," he explained. The park officials added that they are also upgrading the deer park as a major attraction.

Range officer Rathod, who handles the lion and tiger safari in the park, added: "Aside from the Bengal tiger, we also have six lions, three males and three females in the park." Each animal consumes about 10 kg of beef every day, the officials added.

Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now.

3 states join hands to protect tigers

3 states join hands to protect tigers

Tue, Apr 15 12:55 AM

Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have decided to join hands to set up a 'tiger landscape' to facilitate the unhindered movement of the big cats in the three States. An initiative of the State Wildlife Wing (SWW), the project will establish a corridor over a stretch of 1,280 square km of forestland in the three States.

SSW has already submitted an Indicative Tiger Conservation Plan to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to take up the project in coordination with its MP and Chhattisgarh counterparts. "It's purpose is to create an environment for the 'unhindered' movement of the big cats to facilitate 'gene flow' for their healthy and sustainable population growth, because in-bred cubs inherit their parents' genetic diseases and disorders," explained S.

K. Sharma, chief conservator of forests (Wildlife).

The three states, according to him, would set up a coordinating panel of their respective wildlife officers to monitor the development of the landscape. "This apart, local people of the three states will be involved in setting up and keeping a vigil on the corridor to pre-empt poaching," he said.

The landscape along with the corridor would connect Jharkhand's Palamu Tiger Resrve (PTR) with the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) in MP through Chhattisgarh and extend to the SGNP's adjoining area, Bandhavgarh. The corridor includes 1,028 sq kms of PTR alone.

Ironically, the SWW has presented the tiger conservationplan to the conservation authority after the Centre threatened to stop funds, if the State failed to come up with a comprehensive plan to convert Palamu Tiger Reserve into tiger conservation foundation. However, the Centre later provided guidelines for the preparation of the Tiger Conservation Authority, as it would help SWW get central funds for the PTR without hiccups.

"As per the guidelines, a tiger reserve area should have a minimum area between 800 sq km and 1,000 sq km with 80 to 100 tigers, including 20 females, to get the status of a State Tiger Conservation Foundation.

Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now.

Govt shield for Dampa big cats

Govt shield for Dampa big cats

Mizoram sets up steering committee to help check dwindling numbers

Silchar, April 14: Better late than never.

The Mizoram government has formed the much-awaited high-level steering committee to ensure effective co-ordination among forest officials and other agencies to nurture and augment the state's tiger population.

The committee comprises government officials, non-governmental naturalists and conservationists. Though Section 38U of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (WPA) stipulates that such a committee is mandatory for every state to ensure better protection of tigers, the environment and forest department in Mizoram was a little late in floating one.

A Tiger Conservation Foundation had also been constituted recently, which was emphasised in the amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act in 2006.

Mizoram boasts of 18,775 square km of forests of its total geographical area of 21,081 square km. It has a 500-square km tiger reserve at Dampa along its western border with Bangladesh. Dampa was declared a tiger reserve by the Centre in 1994.

The tiger population at Dampa, however, is on a slide. According to a report compiled by the Mizoram state environment and forest department, Dampa is now left with only six big cats, compared to 13 recorded in the last census in 1997.

The main factors for the decline in the number of tigers are encroachment, jhum (shifting) cultivation by villagers who live on the fringes of the reserve in at least a dozen hamlets and the failure of the forest authorities to carve out the core and buffer areas for tiger protection.

The forest officials, however, pointed out that the census carried out in January this year at Dampa could be misleading because the usual method of counting by pugmarks was not followed.

Instead, remote sensing gadgets and camera trapping methods were used for a tiger census. "There can be a margin of error because this is the first time that such sophisticated technique was used to count tigers," a forest department official said.

between 0000-00-00 and 9999-99-99  

In Tamil Nadu, tiger's roar sends out new message

In Tamil Nadu, tiger's roar sends out new message

Tirunelveli (Tamil Nadu): When the tiger roars in Tamil Nadu, there is a gas cylinder in Nagamma's hut and a well in Velu's backyard. A riddle? No, it is the result of "landscape management" through a scheme that has doubled tiger numbers in the state while the population of the big cat has halved in India.

The scheme has brought a smile to Nagamma, who lives at the edge of the Papanasam forest range, about 800 km south of Chennai. The range includes the Agasthyamalai forests of the Tirunelveli-Kanyakumari districts, the Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, the Kanyakumari wildlife sanctuary, the Theni forest division and the Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary.

Nagamma no longer gathers firewood from the forest. A man on a bicycle brings her and her neighbours in the Arumugampatti hamlet their cooking gas cylinders. "Now, I don't have to fear tigers and leopards," she says.

There are 400 such villages on the edge of the forests, where the forest department has introduced such amenities to keep people from cutting trees. "When the tiger roars, it signals the health of the entire ecosystem," says Tamil Nadu's Chief Conservator of Forests V.N. Singh.

"The roar of the tigers tells us they are safe in the forests and healthy. When there is silence, it means danger not only for the tiger but for mankind," Singh told IANS in an interview. "When the tiger roars, all the other animals run. That running is very essential to the health of any animal.

"When the tiger chases prey, it is a sign that the tiger is healthy too, just as healthy as the fleeing deer. A tiger needs about 70 deer and other wildlife to sustain itself for a year. The forest and its grassland and watersheds have to be healthy enough to support that many deer for just one tiger."

Tamil Nadu's tigers live in three forests--the Mudumalai range, the Pollachi range and the Agasthyamalai range.

This is the only state where tiger numbers have increased from 50-odd in the 2003 census to almost 100 in the latest census unveiled this January.

"From where the forest officially begins, inside the forest we keep five kilometres as a protected zone where we know people venture for livelihood reasons," Singh says. "We also mark as protected area five km outside of the official forest line." These are the most sensitive areas where human habitations meet the forest and most of the man-animal conflicts are witnessed.

"So, to mitigate this conflict, we have made an accurate need assessment. We have gone from person to person, to find out what has taken the individual to the forest."

The finding: "Women and children go into the forest mostly to collect firewood and water. We have supplied 2,000 people with cooking gas connections. We find they are too poor to pay the necessary deposit, their huts are too far away from the nearest LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) shop. So, the forest department has paid the cylinder deposit and made arrangement for delivery at their doorsteps."

For water, the department has paid the seed money and got bore wells dug in the settlements. Committees set up to manage the buffer areas in and around the forest ensure no one goes to the forest for their daily needs.

"The approach of eco-development and landscape management will remain the core of the future strategies to minimise man-wildlife conflict", Singh and A. K. Srivastava say in a paper on "Man-Wildlife conflict in Tamil Nadu."

The paper identifies poverty as one of the main reasons for dependence of the villagers on the forests. "It is of utmost necessity that dependence of people living within at least five km of the forest is reduced," the authors recommend.

This can be done by "eco-development committees all around the protected area" - a net of such committees over 51,000-sq-km of forests in the state. The committees have to develop strategies for meeting the needs of the peripheral communities from outside the forest. It has also been found that improving the economic status of the village communities can reduce their dependence on the forests.

This means help with alternative income. Landscape management, according to the paper, will "take care of not just one protected area but the whole stretch of the forest areas along with peripheral villages as one entity and sort out all issues related with that landscape in totality".

The report recommends the concept's extension also to the Wayanad-Mudumalai-Bandipur forest. The root cause of the man-wildlife conflict is "disturbance to the natural activity of wildlife in their habitat", it says.

Source: Indo-Asian News Service

Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now.

A delicate balance

A delicate balance

It is necessary to create environmental awareness and other livelihood alternatives for the villagers to keep the Sunderbans' fragile eco-system going. FRENY MANECKSHA

Over the years the biosphere's delicate balance has been upset because of shrinking habitats and poaching. This in turn escalated man-animal conflicts.

One evening in February 2002, as Col. Shakti Ranjan Banerjee, conservationist and former Director (West Bengal) of WWF India, was appreciating the splendour of the Suznekhali sanctuary in the Sunderbans, he learnt that a tiger had been sighted on Bal i island. Sunderban tigers are powerful swimmers. This one had swum across the wide river expanse that separates Bali, one of the 54 inhabited islands from the 48 uninhabited islands that form the core jungle area.

In earlier days it would have lost its life for straying into human territory. This time, even though some islanders had lost a family member in tiger attacks, they did not stone the animal. Instead, led by environmentally-conscious school teachers, they helped the forest officials to lay a trap so that it could be released back into the wild.

It was a definitive moment for Col. Banerjee. "I felt something must be done to help these villagers earn a livelihood as well as be part of the movement that seeks to preserve the unique biodiversity of this delta that has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO."


In the fragile ecosystem of the Sunderbans, both humans and animals wage a knife-edge battle for survival. An ever-changing dance of creation and destruction is enacted daily in this arena of rivers and tributaries because of the occurrence of two high tides and two low tides. Receding tidal waters leave behind chest-deep alluvium and create large mudflats that support a rich variety of crabs, snails and mudskippers. Estuarine crocodiles and monitor lizards come out to bask in the sun on the mudflats. But the high tide washes away large chunks of land and submerges the mudflats, forcing crabs to take shelter in muddy holes or climb trees. Crocodiles go back into the water.

Due to the high salinity, the soil becomes non-porous and oxygen cannot enter the forest areas. But, in a wonderful adaptation to nature, trees here breathe through pneumataphores (roots that grow up through the mud creating a carpet of sharp spikes which absorb oxygen) stilt roots, and perforated barks. Some 84 species of mangroves and mangrove-associate plant families not only survive in this alluvial soil but also bloom spectacularly like that of the Sundari, Golpata, Kankra and Khalsi.

Tigers too have developed different traits. Agile swimmers, they are as much at home in water as on land. They drink the saline water and eat whatever they come across — fish, crab or man. Not habitual man-eaters, they nevertheless consider man to be part of the food chain and will attack if there is a confrontation, even accidental.

For the people of the Sunderbans life is tough as there is limited land for agriculture. Other forms of livelihood like fishing, gathering honey or collecting wood may bring them into conflict with the tiger or crocodile, especially if they venture into the deep forests where creeks are very narrow and visibility is poor because of dense vegetation. This constant struggle with hostile elements has influenced the mythological traditions of the region. In a remarkable synergy of two religions, the goddess Bonbibi (mother of the forests) and her consort Dakshin Rai are worshipped by both Muslims and Hindus as protectors who can subdue the tiger. Manasa is worshipped to keep venomous snakes at bay and Manik Pir is invoked for the welfare of cows.

Over the years the biosphere's delicate balance has been upset because of shrinking habitats and poaching. This in turn escalated man-animal conflicts. In 1978, the setting up of the Tiger Reserve banned Sunderban inhabitants from venturing into the core area for fishing or collecting honey. Some villagers began adopting a hostile attitude towards forest officials and the big cats.

Vital projects

So when the Bali villagers did show willingness to help conservationists, Col. Banerjee and others resolved to initiate steps that could enable them to earn through ecotourism and other forms of livelihood. Help Tourism, a major ecotourism operator that focuses on community benefits, began a prolonged dialogue with the villagers. The concept of a Jungle Camp with ethnic cottages providing basic amenities and solar power was drawn up. This would not only generate employment but also enable villagers to have a say in administration. It would also create environmental awareness.

Help Tourism also helped organise medical camps for the Bali villagers whilst a consortium of non-governmental organisations and Belinda Wright's Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) drew up developmental programmes. These include non-formal education projects with book banks, laundry and tailoring units and setting up an organic rice processing plant.

Another notable feature has been increasing interaction between villagers and tourists. Col. Banerjee accompanies tourists aboard the luxurious liner Paramahansa run by Vivada Inland Waterways and takes them to Bali where they can be familiarised with the fascinating culture of the Sunderbans. A dance-drama troupe from Bali entertains tourists with its jatra on Bonbibi and Dakshin Rai.

Environmental messages are spread through WPSI and WWF and poaching has been curbed to a great extent.

One of the biggest proponents of these activities is Anil Mistri, former poacher and now field director of WPSI. Deer meat, considered a delicacy, is often served at wedding feasts, so it was not unusual for Mistri to hunt deer like many others. The dramatic turnabout came in 2002 when a friend shot a deer that had young ones. Full of remorse, Mistri met forest officials and was inducted into conservation efforts. He has since helped build up the Bali Nature and Wildlife Conservation Society. There are 22 schools on Bali island where nature clubs are flourishing. Children are now convinced of the need not to hunt deer to maintain the ratio of deer to tigers and lessen chances of man-animal conflicts.

Global relevance

Mistri's message of protecting the Sunderbans has gone global. According to scientists, the Sunderbans are South Asia's largest "carbon sink" mopping up large amounts of carbon dioxide. It is a crucial link in the efforts to prevent global warming. At a conference, held in Argentina in 2004, he spoke first-hand of his observations on the rising sea waters that pose a great threat to the Sunderbans. "I spoke on how summers are prolonged. Cyclones blow up at any time of the year and there are high surges that threaten our settlements," says Mistri.

Satellite imagery shows that sea levels have risen at an average rate of 3.14 cm a year over two decades. At least four islands have disappeared or are losing chunks of land. Ghoramara island lost 50 per cent of its land mass and Lohachora completely disappeared. Tigers too are losing their homes and are forced to migrate.

As the big cat totters on the brink of extinction, Col. Banerjee is heartened by the way the message of awareness has spread in ripples from Bali island right up to Shamshernagar on the eastern edge of the Sunderbans. "At a 'Bagh Bachao' function there was a man I recognised. He was the father of Rupali Bauli, a young girl who had been killed and dragged away by a tiger from her hut. I am a parent and know the father's pain. But he had realised the vital need for both the big cat and man to coexist. It was a touching vindication of our faith in the people."

The Hindu - Magazine
Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Sunday, Apr 13, 2008

Be a better friend, newshound, and know-it-all with Yahoo! Mobile. Try it now.

The eye of the tiger

The eye of the tiger

India's Bandhavgarh National Park is a beacon of hope for the endangered tiger, where visitors may still have an unforgettable close encounter with one of the world's most striking predators

Mark Angelo
Special to The Sun

Saturday, April 12, 2008

While rambling along one of the many well-worn tracks of Bandhavgarh National Park, our driver received word that a tiger had been spotted resting in the tall grass just a few hundred meters off the road. The warden was summoning his elephants to take us there so we quickly headed for the rendezvous point.

On arriving, we came across several other tourists who had also heard the news. With great anticipation, we jumped into the queue.

After several anxious minutes, an Asian elephant was led over to the side of our jeep and I pulled myself up on to a small seating platform that rested on its back. Along with the elephant driver, or "mahout," we set off into the jungle.

Lurching and swaying, the elephant plodded through the thicket of sal trees. Unusually quiet, the jungle was disturbed only be the creaking sound of our leather harness and the crunching of leaves beneath the elephant's feet.

Within minutes, we came upon a large meadow and passed through a sea of grass that, despite our lofty perch, still engulfed us. Suddenly the elephant stopped and there, on a small patch of flattened sedge growth, only metres away, was the tiger.

I stared in awe at this beautiful animal with a buttery gold coat that made her black stripes seem even more pronounced.

A large female in her prime, she paid us little attention at first. Having just awakened from her nap, she yawned and her white incisors stood out like ice picks.

The tiger then sat up and, turning towards me, her glowing amber eyes locked on to mine. It was my first eye-to-eye encounter with one of the rarest and most beautiful predators on Earth and would be something I'd never forget.

Suddenly, the elephant started shifting apprehensively. Sensing the animal's skittishness, the mahout backed the elephant away before turning him sideways to give us one last look at the tiger. All too quickly, it was time to leave.

I had come to Bandhavgarh a few days earlier to explore one of India's most prominent and popular parks. Known for its high density of tigers (perhaps the highest in all of India), the park attracts visitors from around the world.

Located about 600 kms south of Delhi, Bandhavgarh is set among the Vindhya Hills in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Its topography varies between steep ridges, open meadows and undulating hills forested with bamboo and sal trees.

Bandhavgarh is only about 400 square kilometres in size and, from much of the park, the ruins of an ancient fortress on a high ridge provide a stunning backdrop. The last occupier of the fort was the Maharaja of Rewa who managed the surrounding area as his own private hunting reserve before turning the land over to the state in 1968.

The park is also renowned as the source of the legendary white tiger (of Siegfried and Roy fame). In fact, all of the world's white tigers are descended from a single cub named Mohan that was found here in 1951.

In addition to tigers, the park is home to many other animals including sambar and spotted deer, chausingha (a four horned antelope), leopard, sloth, civet, jackal and wild boar. There are also more than 150 bird species found in the park.

But for many, the once in a lifetime opportunity to see a tiger is what brings them to this stunning place. I was no different and, after my experience of seeing a wild tiger from the back of an elephant, I was almost giddy with excitement.

After two separate trips to India and several safaris to some of the country's best known wildlife reserves, this was my first close encounter with a tiger, an animal that had intrigued me since childhood.

But while I was gleeful over what I had seen, my jubilation was partially tempered by the fact that I knew all too well that seeing a wild tiger in India was not nearly as easy as it once was. Given the great decline in tiger numbers, I also couldn't help but wonder if my children would ever have the same opportunity.

Back in 1894, when Rudyard Kipling wrote the Jungle Book, there were an estimated 50,000 Bengal tigers roaming the Indian countryside. Today, as few as 1,400 remain.

In response to growing concern about the animal's plight, India banned the hunting of tigers back in 1970 and, a few years later, it launched "Project Tiger," an initiative aimed at establishing a network of habitat reserves.

Yet, in spite of such laudable attempts, the country's tiger population has not rebounded. While habitat destruction has been a contributing factor, poaching in response to the illegal demand for tiger pelts and body parts in China and Southeast Asia has been a major cause.

While I've long been aware of the tiger's plight, it was during an earlier visit to India in 2004 that I became more personally involved. On that trip, my wife and I spent a week in the Ranthambore tiger reserve and, during our many trips into the park, we got only a fleeting glimpse of one solitary tiger.

Our guides were confounded by the reduced sightings and there were many rumours about possible poaching activity, although nothing had been proven. Shortly after we left though, a ring of poachers was arrested in a nearby village. It was later confirmed that, over the span of several months, they had killed almost half of Ranthambore's tigers.

This was a devastating blow to tiger conservation efforts, not only in Ranthambore, but across the country. Yet, on a positive note, the international publicity from this episode led Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to strike a major task force to help save the tiger.

This culminated in a recent announcement of a new 153 million dollar program to establish eight new tiger reserves. As part of the plan, about 250 villages will be relocated away from tiger habitat and each affected family will be compensated.

While all of this is encouraging, India's tiger population remains at an historic low.

For this reason, Bandhavgarh is now a focal point for conservation and recovery efforts and, with its robust population of tigers, it represents a beacon of hope that this great cat can and will survive.

On the final day of our visit, I was out for a morning drive in a remote corner of the park when our jeep suddenly came to a stop. Our driver had heard the shrieking alarm of a langur monkey high in the treetops beside a nearby meadow. Seconds later, the forest erupted with a frenzied series of calls.

I then saw movement through the trees and those unmistakeable shades of tan and black came into view as a tiger emerged at the edge of the clearing. He was a huge male and, at close to 300 kilograms, was one of the biggest tigers in the park. Looking at him, it was difficult to imagine a more magnificent animal!

The tiger briefly scanned the open terrain and then, to our surprise, headed directly for us. He walked with a confident swagger that you'd expect from the dominant cat in the area.

We watched as the tiger crossed the road just metres from our vehicle. He then stopped at the edge of a bamboo thicket and, glancing back at us, defiantly scowled before disappearing into the forest.

Mark Angelo is the Head of the BCIT Fish and Wildlife Program and a frequent contributor to The Vancouver Sun. He is the recipient of the Order of Canada, Order of BC and the United Nations Stewardship Award for his environmental and river-conservation efforts.

between 0000-00-00 and 9999-99-99  

Experts join forces in drive to save the Scottish wildcat

EXPERTS are to meet today to share ideas on saving one of Scotland's most threatened animals from extinction.
The Scottish wildcat population has fallen sharply in the last few decades and is now thought to be about 3,500, although some estimates put it as low as 400.

One of the elusive predator's remaining strongholds is the Cairngorms and a conference there aims to set up a conservation project with the help of wildlife organisations, land managers, tourism operators, vets and cat welfare groups.

The conference is organised by the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), the Scottish Gamekeepers Association (SGA), the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and predator group Tooth & Claw.

Eric Baird, the vice-convener of CNPA, who is chairing the conference, said: "The current number of wildcats remains uncertain but we know the prognosis is not good with some estimates putting the population at a mere 400 individuals left in the wild.

"The biggest threat to the existence of the Scottish wildcat is thought to be hybridisation with feral domestic cats.

"We want to raise awareness of the plight of the Scottish wildcat and explore the implementation of a range of practical conservation actions to save this Scottish icon. We don't have all the answers at this time but this is an important first step in finding them."

In February, Michael Russell, the environment minister, launched the first survey for 20 years on the number and health of wildcats.

The last full survey, carried out between 1983 and 1987, found the species was restricted to an area north of the Central Belt.

Later research suggested it was confined mainly to Perthshire, Angus, Grampian and the eastern Highlands, with a small population in Argyll and Lochaber. The most recent study, in 1995, estimated there were 3,500 animals aged more than five months across Scotland.

The wildcat was once widespread throughout Europe, Asia and Africa but is now extinct in many countries. Its decline in Britain began in the early 1800s and it disappeared from England and Wales by 1862, leaving Scotland as its last mainland stronghold.

The population has been depleted by hybridisation with feral domestic cats, spread of disease, predator control and capture and the break-up and degradation of its natural habitat.

It has survived by clinging on in some areas, preying chiefly on rabbits but also on small birds and mammals.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland keeps a small group of pure-bred native wildcats at Kincraig and in the past year they produced seven kittens.

Among the subjects being discussed at the conference will be neutering feral cats and vaccinating them against disease, as well as the promotion of responsible domestic cat ownership.

Allan Hodgson, of the SGA, said: "Gamekeepers working on the ground are in a position to be able to contribute a great deal, from providing information on wildcat sightings to feral cat management. We carry out feral cat control and would suggest that keeping feral cat numbers in check contributes to a reduction in hybridisation. We could certainly work more closely with members to increase awareness of wildcat identification so there is absolutely no risk to the species."

Jane Harley, a vet based in the national park, said wildcats were at risk from diseases common in feral cats: "The feline leukaemia virus, for example, is a highly contagious cat disease which can be vaccinated against.

"For those domestic cat owners who would like to play their part in protecting the wildcat my advice is to have their pet cats neutered and ensure that all vaccinations are up-to-date."

Dead, injured bobcats turning up at Redlands Mesa

Injured and dead bobcats showing up recently on and near the Redlands Mesa Golf Course have area residents and wildlife officials wondering if the cats were illegally trapped.

And if the bobcats were the victims of illegal snares, who would want to harm them, and why?

After being called by Redlands Mesa personnel, the Division of Wildlife live-trapped an injured bobcat and later euthanized it, said Division spokesman Randy Hampton.

“It had injuries that may be consistent with being caught in an illegal trap,” Hampton said. “Unfortunately the injuries were significant and the animal was unable to be rehabilitated.”

That bobcat was reported April 5, said Eric Feely, general manager of Redlands Mesa. The animal was missing two paws, which experts say is consistent with being caught in a snare trap, he added.

Another cat was found dead last weekend, he said.

“I saw a dead bobcat missing its hind leg on green 15,” said Robyn Keefover, who works at the golf course and described herself as “pro-wildlife.”

Keefover believes someone’s using illegal traps. She wants to warn people of the possibility of hidden snares.

“There’s a lot of hikers, dogs, children who hike around this area. I cringe at the idea of one of their legs getting chopped off,” Keefover said.

The Division has not seen any illegal traps in the area, Hampton said.

The bobcat’s injuries “are consistent” with an illegal snare, he added, “but there’s always a possibility it got into something else, it fell in a hole, got hit by a car, tangled in a fence,” Hampton said of the first bobcat.

The latest bobcat was a baby, between two and two-and-a-half-feet long, the size of a house cat, Feely said.

Its right rear leg “was basically cut off, and the left rear was damaged,” Feely said. The Division told Feely someone in the area may be illegally trapping.

“I don’t think it’s a homeowner,” Feely said. “Something’s happening where they’re getting caught in something. It’s obvious something’s got a hold of its legs.”

It’s a shame, Feely said, because players and residents love to watch the bobcats.

“They’re harmless. They never hurt anybody.”

Feely surmised the animals are injured in traps elsewhere and then seek refuge on the golf course “because they feel safe here.”

“We’ve never had a problem up here with bobcats. They’ve never been anything other than a source of pride for us.”

Redlands Mesa residents and golfers are “totally opposed” to illegally trapping the bobcats, Keefover said. “It is such a cool phenomenon to watch these bobcats chase these rabbits.”

“They’ve been up here forever,” Feely said. “We’ve always been really into them.”

Bobcat pelts are worth up to $400, but they cannot be sold legally without the Division seal, Hampton said.

Anyone who knows anything about the injured bobcats is encouraged to call the Division at 255-6100, Hampton said.

“It could be completely innocent. Our hope is that if someone knows anything, we’re going to hear from them,” Hampton said.

Keefover is attempting to raise money for a reward for information. To reach her, e-mail her at

Reach Marija B. Vader at

Cops gun down cougar on N. Side

City dwellers, consider this a confirmation: It is a jungle out there.

And residents of the North Side's Roscoe Village neighborhood found out firsthand Monday when a cougar -- or mountain lion, as authorities alternately referred to it -- pawed around their neighborhood and authorities shot and killed it.

Residents living on Hamilton and neighboring Hoyne, just north of Roscoe, heard a series of gunshots coming from the alley about 6 p.m. When it was over, the animal, weighing about 150 pounds, was dead on a cement parking pad behind one of the homes on Hamilton.

"I was home and sitting in my front room and I heard what I thought were firecrackers," said James Reynolds, 45, who lives in 3400 block of North Hamilton and saw much of it unfold.

He went to his rear deck and saw -- there in his alley -- the animal and was shocked.

"I thought, 'Is that a lion?' "

The animal made a feeble attempt to climb the fence to his backyard as well as the fence to his neighbor's yard.

"He really couldn't jump, so I think he was already injured," Reynolds said. He said he called out to officers to let them know that the animal was just yards from his home.

"I told them 'Hey guys, he's right there!' " -- and officers told him to go back inside.

After a series of shots, the animal lay motionless, witnesses say. By early evening, only a small splatter of what appeared to be blood served as evidence of the cat for curious neighbors who were still getting home from work when everything happened.

"This is the craziest thing I've ever seen," Reynolds said.

Indeed, several neighbors said they heard eight to 10 shots fired in what is normally a tranquil neighborhood.

Area resident Steve Dick praised law enforcement for doing "what they had to do" and noted that they handled it in a way that no one in the neighborhood was hurt.

Another area resident, Ted Wallace, said it was frightening, first seeing officers in vehicles, on bicycles and on foot and then to suddenly hear gunfire -- especially with all the kids around.

But when he heard it was a cougar?

"It's unbelievable, I mean, this is Roscoe Village. It's the city of Chicago."

The animal, whose gender was unknown, appeared to have been healthy and well-fed. It will be examined to see if it has a chip that might lead authorities to the owner.

It was unclear whether the animal might be the same one spotted in North Chicago recently and, on Saturday, in Wilmette.,

Four lynx “starve to death” in National Park

EU ignored advice before three cubs and one adult die in national park

FOUR of the world’s most endangered feline have been found dead at the Doñana National Park despite the animals being part of an EU-funded scheme.

According to conservation group WWF, the Iberian lynx – three new born cubs and an adult male – died from starvation.

The adult – a male called Clavo which had been introduced to strengthen genetically the population in Doñana in 2006 – was found trapped without food and water inside an enclosure, built to house lynx before their release into the park.

Even though the cat was wearing a collar containing a radio tracking device, WWF officials claim its body had lain undiscovered for days.

Days later, the three cubs were found dead at Coto del Rey inside the park. An autopsy showed these had also died of hunger.

Now officials of the LIFE project – an European Union project to boost the cat’s population – has been slammed by local experts.

“I find it inexplicable how officials did not seek the advice of those who have been working with the animal for more than 20 years,” said Fernando Hiraldo, the director of the Biological Station of Doñana (BSD).

And this has been echoed by the man considered to be the world’s leading expert in the Iberian lynx.

Francisco Palomar, who is a researcher at the BSD, criticised the Junta de Andalucía, which has been charged with overseeing the programme.

“No co-ordination nor management seems to exist on behalf of the regional government. They have never involved the station in this project nor asked us questions about the lynx.”

Brussels has been asked to look into any charges of negligence while the public prosecutor in Huelva has also received a request to investigate.

“What sense is there in bringing the animal from the Sierra Morena if you are going to leave them to die in Doñana?

“These deaths highlight what a delicate situation the lynx population is in” Juan Carlos Olmo of WWF said.

With an estimated 150 in the wild, the animal is extinct from Portugal and is found in pockets of Spain, including Doñana and the Sierra Morena mountain range in northern Andalucía.

Very small colonies exist in Extremadura and Castilla La Mancha.

A spokesman for the Junta defended the running of the project and refuted claims of negligence.

“We received the final transmission from Clavo. This indicated that everything was normal and the animal was a distance from the enclosure. On April 2, we had the first indications that the animal had died inside this area.

“Our autopsy showed he possible perished on March 31,” José Guirado said.