Friday, January 22, 2010

‘Centre did not consult state on lion shifting’

'Centre did not consult state on lion shifting'
Times of India

Former PCCF Says Kuno Palpur Sanctuary Can House Zoo-Bred Lions

The government of Gujarat was not consulted by the Centre when the latter planned a project to translocate Asiatic lions from Gir forest to Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh, says a former forest official.

M Sharma, the former principal chief conservator of forest, said Kuno Palpur had been identified as the site for introducing lions, but since the area was fenced and local inhabitants had moved out, it could very well be used to house zoo-bred lions, instead of the wild ones.

On the Supreme Court's query that why the lions should not be sent to Kuno from Gir forest, Sharma said the Centre had not consulted Gujarat when it first planned translocation of lions.

The reason cited for the translocation was that keeping the animal in one region would make their existence vulnerable especially in case of a disease breaking out.

Sharma said the Centre should instead take up a pilot project in Kuno by releasing zoo-bred lions in the wild. Sharma, a member of the tiger project in Delhi in the 1980s, however, said the experts were divided on issue of releasing zoo-bred lions in the wild. The Central government too in the past had decided not to release zoo-bred animals in the wild.

Sharma said that Sakkarbaug zoo in Junagadh had maintained a study book for lions, which had noted how animals born in Sakkarbaug had hunting instincts in their genes.
This instinct may surface if these animals are subjected to hunting. "However, the fear of these animals turning man-eaters may not be there as Kuno Palpur is fenced. Therefore, a pilot project in Kuno may be tried with zoo-bred animals," Sharma said.

He recounted an event in the 1980s when a wild animal was kept by Bili Arjun Singh in Dudhwa. The animal turned into a man-eater.

"The Centre had appointed a committee, comprising HS Panwar and RLP Singh, to probe the matter. Singh had got a wild animal released from the zoo. The experts then reached to a conclusion not to release zoo-bred animals in wild," Sharma said, adding that Maldharis who have protected the lion since ages are also against this translocation.

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