New habitat for Asiatic lions in MP
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik
AHMEDABAD: Gir is poised to lose its status as the exclusive home of the Asiatic lion. Two pairs of the lions obtained from zoos will be let loose in the Kuno Palpur sanctuary shortly for breeding. Once their numbers grow in the coming years, Madhya Pradesh plans to throw the place open to tourists.
Zoos in Bhopal, New Delhi and Hyderabad have already agreed to part with lions for Kuno, after Gujarat rejected the idea of Kuno being an alternate habitat for the Asiatic lion. For Gujarat, being the only home of the Asiatic lion was a matter of pride and a draw for tourists. However, MP, which is a much bigger draw for tourists because of Khajuraho, may steal the march over Gujarat by showcasing the lions.
The Madhya Pradesh government has found other ways to get around Gujarat's opposition. "We have already got the nod from Hyderabad from where we would soon be getting a pair of zoo-bred Asiatic lions, besides one male Asiatic lion from Bhopal and a female from Delhi," said conservator of forest, Gwalior, Murli Krishna.
He added Kuno would begin as a breeding centre. "But once we have the third generation of lions, they would be let free in the jungle. In the next eight years the sanctuary would be opened up for tourists," said Krishna.
The MP forest department has submitted a proposal of Rs 40 crore for the development of the area as an Asiatic lion sanctuary, he added. Kuno Palpur wants to start with at least five pairs of lions so that in eight years time they can release at least 10 in the forest and keep the rest for breeding.
The Dehradun-based Wildlife Research Institute has for long felt that Gir, with its population of over 350 big cats, was too small for housing the animals.
The institute then zeroed in on the 344-sq km Kuno Palpur sanctuary and launched the Asiatic Lions Reproduction Project.