Thursday, April 12, 2007

Lion's share to tiger

10-04-2007 Times of India


AHMEDABAD: Guess who gets the lion's share from the Centre's wildlife conservation kitty — the tiger! The Central government spends around Rs 82,000 on each tiger in the wild, against which it spends only Rs 18,000 on each lion.


If the Asiatic lion owes its life to anyone, it ought to be the Nawab of Junagadh,who in 1910 banned hunting after the count went down to only 12.


Ironically, all the funds that have been coming for the lion have been coming under the project heads for conservation of the tiger.


Adding to this irony was the Centre's announcement on Monday of forming a committee for an appraisal on the lions under the National Tiger Conservation Authority. Clearly, the lion's throne as the King of the Jungle has been usurped.


Wildlife experts who have shouted themselves hoarse over the threat to tigers have done precious little for the lion.


Gujarat gets a meagre Rs 60 lakh annually from the Centre under the Protected Area scheme while the Centre spends almost Rs 30 crore annually on tiger conservation in 28 sanctuaries across the country.


The problem has its roots in the fact that while the tiger population is spread over a number of states — which could together lobby for more funds from the Centre — Gujarat, being the only abode of the Asiatic lions, was completely isolated.


It is another matter that even Gujarat never took the lion seriously enough to generate funds internally for its conservation, through budgetary methods or by promoting tourism in Gir such a big way that, like Kenya, it could spend a portion of the tourism income on lion conservation.


Faculty at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun, Ravi Chellam says, "There is need for a consolidated action plan for the Gir sanctuary."


This means spending more money on modern equipment, disease monitoring and habitat conservation. Member secretary, (Project Tiger) Rajesh Gopal says, "There is a need for a project like Project Tiger for the lions."


But, the problem with the likes of Chellam and Gopal is that they feel protection of lion can be done only if some of them are shifted outside Gujarat. As long as the lion stays in Gujarat, nobody gives a damn.

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