Monday, November 26, 2007

Centre wants to shift lions outside state to save them from extinction


Centre wants to shift lions outside state to save them from extinction

Indian Express By Tanvir A. Siddiqui

Ahmedabad, November 25; The Centre is contemplating shifting some of the lions from Gir to other parts in India. Officials say the single population in Gir faces risk of extinction in the event of any outbreak of virus or any other deadly disease. This is why the Gir lions, the only remaining Asiatic lion species, should have habitats far and apart, said Meena Gupta, Union Forest and Environment Secretary.

But the state government is opposing the proposal tooth and nail despite the death of a number of lions in the region in the recent past due to reasons as diverse as electrocution, or falling into a well.

Elsewhere, Gupta, who is now in Ahmedabad to attend an international conference on environmental education, is convinced that the state government will see logic in her arguments and give the matter more thought in the interest of the survival of this rare species.

She said the Centre was optimistic about convincing the Gujarat government about shifting some big cats from the Gir sanctuary to Kuno-Palpur in Madhya Pradesh. In an informal chat during the fourth International Conference on Environmental Education (ICEE) here on Sunday, Gupta said she was aware of the fact that Gir being the only natural abode of Asiatic Lion in the world, it was the USP of Gujarat as far as tourism was concerned. However, for the benefit of these lions, it was necessary to shift some of them from Gujarat. She said the Centre was hopeful of successfully setting up another reserve for Asiatic Lions outside Gujarat.

Gupta said the Centre was in continuous correspondence with the state government on the subject and the last exchange of letters took place about a month back.

In the letter, the State Environment and Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel had said that shifting of the lions out of Gujarat was not necessary because the Gir environment was suitable for them and secondly, their area was not limited.

Gupta said attempts to convince Gujarat on this have so far not been successful, but the Centre was keeping its options open. If shifting of some of these big cats did not materialise, then the animals would be procured from other zoos and would be given a suitable environment to multiply.

She further said the government was well aware of the difficulties involved with shifting such large animals, but it was necessary for the sake of the survival of the species. “We must think of the future when the space for them is going to be limited, which would reduce possibility of expansion,” she said.

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