Centre for introduction of tigers in Gujarat; state not ready to trade its 'pride'
Press Trust of India,Express News Service
Tigers might roam the forests of Gujarat once again, if the Centre has its way. The state government has been asked to submit a proposal regarding the possibility ofintroduction of the big cats in the state.
Tigers were found in abundance in Gujarat from Valsad to Banaskantha till the 1950s, but they completely vanished from the state by 1997.
Observing that Gujarat was the only state in the western region not having any tigers, Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, at a recent meeting, suggested that the state should explore the possibility of introducing tigers.
"The Minister has asked the state government to submit a proposal accordingly," a senior environment official said.
However, Gujarat is averse to the idea of exchanging Asiatic lions with tigers.
Desperate to hold on to its monopoly on the last Asiatic lion habitat in the world, Gujarat has been refusing to share its "pride" with Madhya Pradesh or any other state.
"But if Narendra Modi accepts the tiger introduction plan, he will have no option but to agree for an exchange," a source said.
The Gujarat government, meanwhile, said it is not averse to the Union environment minister's suggestion. "Tigers did exist till late 1980s in the forests of south and north Gujarat. We have a congenial environment to accommodate tigers in our forests. Our government will certainly consider the proposal if the Centre sends it to us formally", said state Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel.
Reacting to media reports emanating from New Delhi, Patel told Newsline at Gandhinagar on Monday evening, "I will ask officials of my department to send a detailed project report to the Centre on this. But I hope the Centre will not ask Gujarat to give Gir lions to Madhya Pradesh or any other state in exchange for tigers."
State Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Pradeep Khanna said the Union minister had, in fact, made a suggestion to introduce tigers in Gujarat at a meeting of the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife held in New Delhi a few days ago. "We are considering the proposal with an open mind. We will have to examine the various aspects such as identification of forest areas and availability of enough prey-base for tigers before sending a detailed project report to the Centre," he added.
Khanna, who handled the wildlife assignment till he was elevated to the post of PCCF two days ago, said Gujarat certainly has an environment for tiger habitat, as they had existed in the Dangs and Surpaneshwar forests till the late 80s. But the department will have to identify forest areas other than Dangs and Surpaneshwar before sending a detailed proposal to the Centre, he said.