Why Gir Lions Are Sacred
· A central proposal to move some lions to Kuno in MP from Gir has been in limbo for over two decades
· Gujarat has been resisting since the lions are widely seen as the pride for
· Distributing the lions, feel experts, will reduce risks from an epidemic or natural calamity at one spot
· Now MP and the Centre want to introduce some zoo lions into Kuno
· The Supreme Court is hearing a pil pleading the court to order
The dispute between
The possession of the only surviving wild Asiatic lions has been a matter of pride for the
With the Narendra Modi government rejecting an ambitious federal proposal to relocate some of lions from
Three genetically 'pure' Asiatic lions, two females and a male, have been identified to be moved from zoos in
Gir is home to 360 of the last surviving wild Asiatic lions. The proposal to shift some of these animals to a new location was first mooted in 1995 to ensure the lions have better chances of survival in case of a natural calamity, such as an epidemic. The outbreak of Canine Distemper Virus in
Meanwhile, last month, in cooperation with the CZA, the Madhya Pradesh government demarcated an area in Kuno to house the "off-display conservation breeding centre" for zoo lions. But the move to 'rehabilitate' zoo lions in the wild has many critics. Says Asad Rahmani, director of Bombay Natural History Society: "The whole idea of conservation will be defeated, more so because we have a surviving wild population. It is a pity that politics is determining the outcome of such a prestigious project. Animals don't recognise political boundaries but only those that are ecological and Kuno is well within the ecological boundary of the Asiatic lion."
Adds Raghunandan Singh Chundawat, a conservationist specialising in big cats: "These zoo-bred lions are used to human presence and their offspring will require training to adapt to the wild and hunt. But what is the guarantee that these lions will not at some point stray into conflicts with humans for easy prey?"
The Supreme Court is hearing a pil seeking the relocation of wild lions filed in 2006 by Faiyaz Khudsar, a trustee with the Biodiversity Conservation Trust of India. "The people were relocated around Kuno to make way for wild lions.
Would it be ethical to introduce zoo lions instead?" asks Khudsar. While Gujarat is not legally bound to hand over its lions, Ritwick Dutta, the lawyer for the petitioner, argues, "Wildlife was kept a concurrent subject so that the centre can direct a state to carry out a task in the interest of protecting endangered species such as the Asiatic lion."
Achyut Yagnik, honorary secretary of the Centre for Social Knowledge and Action in Ahmedabad, says the possession of the lions has become a 'political legacy' that the Modi government has inherited from Shankersinh Vaghela. "When this proposal first came up, people from Saurashtra (where Gir is located) campaigned to retain ownership of the lions. The people of
All eyes are now on the Supreme Court. Will it settle the dispute and end