Monday, April 05, 2010

Gujarat's Gir lion monopoly faces fresh threat

Gujarat's Gir lion monopoly faces fresh threat
Times of India By Jumana Shah

The odds are stacked against Gujarat which has the distinction of being the only state in the country to have Asiatic lions.

In the continuing tussle over relocation of some of the Asiatic lions to Madhya Pradesh, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has voted against the Gujarat government's opposition to shifting of the big cats.

It may be recalled that the Supreme Court had asked the NBWL to give its opinion on an affidavit filed by the Gujarat government opposing the relocation of the lions to Madhya Pradesh. In an affidavit filed in the Apex court in mid-January, the NBWL said that although Gujarat has done commendable work in lion conservation, the threat of an epidemic wiping out all its Asiatic lions could not be overlooked.

"There is no disputing the fact that Gujarat's contribution to conserving its wildlife is praiseworthy," a source on the board said. "Everyone realises this and, therefore, the prized tigers were also offered to the state."

The source, however, added that epidemics could strike anywhere anytime. "And if an epidemic were to strike in the region, it may affect the entire species adversely given their proximity to each other," the source said. "Moreover, because of the growth in the population of the lions, their habitat is also under strain."

The NBWL affidavit is important as the Supreme Court has been waiting for it to come to a conclusion on the issue. The Gujarat government had filed an affidavit expressing its concerns about moving the lions to M-P, the chief one being that lions and tigers cannot co-exist. The SC had given Gujarat's affidavit to the NBWL with the direction that the board give its opinion on the concerns raised by the state government.

Sources said most of Gujarat's concerns have been addressed in the NBWL's affidavit, which is expected to form the basis for the SC verdict.

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