Friday, May 07, 2010

MP eyes 74 lions

MP eyes 74 lions
Today By Jumana Shah

As the 411-odd Asiatic Lions merrily roam in Kathiawar, today the Supreme Court may finally see some arguments on whether the king of Gujarat's jungles should be relocated to the Kuno Palpur Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh or not.

Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan is scheduled to set open the lion relocation case for argument on Friday.

Interestingly, the stellar rise in lion population has been envisaged as posing a problem for the state to retain them in the state. According to sources, MP is eyeing the 74 lions that have been shown to be roaming outside the four sanctuary areas in the 2010 census.

"The point is Gujarat does not have a designated habitat for these 74 lions. They are perhaps regularly in conflict with humans. So why not give just one pride out of this spillover population to MP? We are not touching the lions inside the Gir Sanctuary," the source said.

The latest developments in the case have not been too favourable for Gujarat. In their latest affidavit of January 2010, the National Board for Wildlife in India (NBWLI) had supported the move to MP. This was after a long series of affidavits by Gujarat citing several reasons protesting the move. Gujarat's foresters have been camping in the national capital for the past three days in the countdown to the hearing.

Wildlife activist Faiyaz Khudsar had filed PIL in the SC requesting the translocation of the lions from Gir to Kuno on the grounds that a singular epidemic can wipe out the entire population.

The Asiatic breed of lions is now only found in Gujarat. The state has constantly argued that translocation may not be fruitful to MP mainly owing to the presence of tigers and poachers. "The recent lion census indicates a trend of stable and young population of lions in Gujarat. There is a strong prey base here. And most importantly, the people here are very supportive and emotionally involved with the lions. Therefore poaching is never going to be a problem here," principal secretary environment and forest SK Nanda said.

Despite the build up, however, the case may not be taken up by the court owing to several other important matters and the fact that the chief justice of India KG Balakrishnan who will be hearing the case will be retiring on May 11.

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