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2018 has been a brutal year for India’s wildlife

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2018 has been a long and tough year for wildlife in this country. An ominous trend is the 'lynch mentality' that seems to be taking over in every field. If a leopard is discovered in or near an urban area it is often chased, stoned and beaten to death by berserk mobs. The Gir lions deaths, Bandipur tiger Reserve flyover, elephant deaths and the controversial killing of 'Avni' generated heat and hysteria.

Gir lion deaths

Gir lion deaths

In September, wildlife lovers were shocked when around 30 lions died in Gujarat's Gir sanctuary after getting infected by the Canine Distemper Virus.

Another 30 lions were kept under observation for the deadly virus, which wiped out 30 per cent population of the big cats in Serengeti jungles of Africa in 1994.

According to the 2015 census, Gujarat had 523 lions, which draw tourists and animal enthusiasts to the state.

The state government is now planning to shift some lions to places like Bardo Dungar forest area in Porbandar, but has refused to relocate them to neighbouring Madhya Pradesh.

There is impending danger of epidemic, or natural calamity, forest fire, disease outbreak, genetic depression through inbreeding.

Five years since the SC order, at least 23 lions have died - and the unofficial count, as per sources, is closer to 50 dead lions.

Many of them have died because of disease - and the deadly Canine Distemper Virus (CDV, a disease which pet dogs are vaccinated against) is identified as one of the causes. Some have also died due to poisoning or infighting.

Lions have meant a great deal for India. They adorn Ashoka's pillar, and every single Indian banknote. Four of them are part of India's National Emblem, and they were the National Animal till 1972. These imperious symbols aside, the lion is still known as ‘Jungle ka raja'(King of the Jungle) in folklore, also people retain a fascination for lions.

Avni murdered?

Avni murdered?

The drama unfolding around Avni, a tigress with two cubs hit the headlines for bad news. Avni, the six-year-old tigress and mother of two 11-month-old cubs, who allegedly killed 13 persons since June 2016, was shot in a controversial manner by sharpshooter Asgar Ali, son of famous sharpshooter Nawab Shafat Ali on November 2 this year. The killing of the tigress triggered a full blown war of words between the forest minister in Maharashtra and union minister Maneka Gandhi, both belonging to the BJP.

The controversy started when the government decided to bring in Shafat Ali, a self-styled hunter. Ali has put down many man-eaters in India, but his swagger is a mixture of trophy hunting and apparently, eugenics. He claims tigers can be terrorists; that he is a good shooter because of his "blood", and boasts his grandfather "shot tigers like dogs".

A group of wildlife vets in Maharashtra have objected to Khan being allowed to tranquilise the tigress. Tranquilisation of animals is a difficult and precise process, animals can also die if it is wrongly done.

The government had spent almost Rs 60-70 lakhs on the search operations. Forest department had hired elephants, thermal drones, perfumes, sniffer dogs, paraglider, more than hundred trap cameras. More than 200 people including private & forest department shooters were involved in the search operations. Though every time, Avni somehow managed to elude to capture in camera. But on Friday, shooters sighted her in 149 Borati and killed her.

The news of Avni's death created a huge storm on social media.

India's first tiger translocation hits roadblock

India's first tiger translocation hits roadblock

India's first interstate translocation exercise for tigers hit a roadblock with Odisha government decided to shift Royal Bengal tigress 'Sundari', who had allegedly killed two persons, from Satkosia Wildlife Sanctuary to an enclosure at any place including in Nandankanan Zoological Park.

The relocation approved by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) kicked off earlier this year with two big cats: a male (T1) from Kanha Tiger Reserve, followed by a female (T2) from Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh. Both tigers were brought to the 963 square km Satkosia Tiger Reserve in June, to shore up the existing tiger population of two in the reserve and thereby in the state.The number of big cats in the state ranges from 28 to 40.

A major reason behind this whole operation is the space crunch. With the steady increase in tiger population in many reserves, there is a need to expand the tiger habitat or to relocate them in a better and safe place.

Gruesome death of Elephants

Gruesome death of Elephants

India's escalating man-animal conflict is leaving its elephants with no safe home.

A recent heart-wrenching incident inside Karnataka's Nagarhole National Park in southern India captures the gravity of the situation. On Dec. 15, a 42-year-old elephant suffocated to death after getting stuck in a seven feet high iron fence. Ironically, the fence was set up by forest authorities to protect the creatures by preventing them from straying into human settlements.

The 42-year-old was chased by a mob. Instead of stopping once he had moved away from their farms, they continued to pursue him. He ran towards the safety of his home, the Nagarhole National Park, but was unable to find his way around a fence. In desperation, he tried to leap or climb over it and died in what was most likely a very painful accident that lasted several hours as his own 5-ton body weight slowly crushed his chest.

Also, Karnataka lost its most loved elephant, ‘Rowdy' Ranga, in a road accident. According to reports, the 48-year-old wild elephant was killed after it was hit by a speeding bus around 2am on Monday, near Mathigodu Elephant Camp in Thithimathi on Mysuru-Gonikoppal Road.

The death of Ranga, the second such incident in recent times has reignited the call for a complete night traffic ban in Nagarhole and Bandipur forest ranges.

Between April and mid-December, 65 elephants were killed in Odisha alone, most of them due to human interventions such as power lines, oncoming trains, and the construction of wells, tanks, and drains, which elephants have fallen into.

Bandipur flyover put on hold

Bandipur flyover put on hold

Well, there has been a splash of news and hot debate with regard to lifting of the ban on night traffic through Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka. This row started as a result of the Central government asking Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy to withdraw the ban so that an elevated corridor or road and other infrastructure could be started and the Central ministry suggested that the chief minister had agreed to lift the ban. The PWD Minister Mr H.D. Revanna also hurriedly announced that a flyover could come up every 2.50 km inside Bandipur. When the news triggered opposition from environmentalists and other sections of the society, the chief minister gathered himself quickly expressed his opinion and perhaps has stayed put with this decision.

There is traffic up to 9 pm every day and this is good for Kerala to maintain its economy, traffic and the environment. Actually the deadline advanced from 9 pm to 7 pm.

Leopards chased

Leopards chased

There have been instances where the leopards were chased and killed by the frenzy mob. In 2018, India recorded its highest leopard mortality in the last four years. While almost 34 per cent of the big cats were poached for purposes of trafficking, the remaining 74 per cent died either due to train or road accidents. Data from previous years asserts that 460 leopards died this past year as compared to 431 in 2017, 440 in 2016, 399 in 2015 and 331 in 2014.

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