'MP sanctuary ideal for Gir lions, but not for those bred in captivity'
Express India By Shubhalakshmi Shukla
Giving another dimension to the ongoing standoff between Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh over the translocation of Gir lions to the Kuno Palpur Sanctuary in MP, a recent meeting of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has suggested that big cats bred in captivity should not be shifted there. The sanctuary is however, a viable habitat for the Asiatic lions, it said.
Sources said the NBWL members have endorsed the MP government's stand that the high temperature of Kuno Palpur is conducive for the lions. The meeting was held under the aegis of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on December 22.
The suggestions by two NBWL members — World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India president Divyabhanusinh Chavda, and Wildlife Trust of India president Ranjitsinh — will be included in the affidavit, which the MoEF will soon submit to the Supreme Court.
The draft of the affidavit is ready, but it has not been forwarded to either the MP or Gujarat government.
MoEF sources said the document need not be shared at this stage.
Earlier, MP and Gujarat had submitted their contentions on the translocation issue, after a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court.
"During the 1960s, 90 of the 100 lions living near the dead Ngorongoro volcano in Tanzania died following an attack by blood sucking flies — Catrisans Stomoxys. In 1993, the Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) was responsible for the death of 1,000 of the 4,000 lions in the Serengeti plains of Tanzania,"Chavda said.
"There are around 360 lions in Gujarat, and in case of any such calamity, the entire population could be wiped out. Measures should be taken to increase and sustain the number of Asiatic lions," he added.
He further said: "Secondly, even as the Government of Gujarat is contending that lions will not be able to withstand the high temperature of Kuno Palpur, I have suggested that high temperature of the habitat is not a problem. Lions have survived in places like Palestine."
Elaborating on the need to translocate the lions, Chavda said: "How can a lion bred in captivity feed itself? It never learns to hunt its prey. In the wild, the mother teaches the cub to fend for itself, but this is not possible when breeding is done in captivity."
Not CM, but Maldharis protected Gir lions: Ramesh
Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh today downplayed Chief Minister Narendra Modi's claim of saving the Asiatic lions in Gir from poachers, saying the credit for this should actually go to the local Maldhari tribals.
"I don't want to make it sound like a political statement, but I must say that the credit for lion conservation is not due to the Chief Minister (Modi) but the Maldhari community that has saved them from extinction," he said at a function organised by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
Gir forest in Gujarat — the only natural habitat of lions in India — is an example of good social protection, Ramesh said, adding that such a system is missing in the case of tigers. Gir has a substantial population of the Maldhari community that grazes livestock within the protected area, and they have protected lions from the poachers, Ramesh said.
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