Fearing inbreeding, Jairam wants Asiatic lion relocated
Saying there was threat of inbreeding among the Asiatic lions at Gir, Union Environment Minister and Forest Jairam Ramesh, who is on a two-day visit to the sanctuary, Thursday called for relocating them to Palpurkuno Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. Gir is the Asiatic lion's only home.
"We would be happy to see a second home for Asiatic lions in MP. I have written to the state government about this. It should consider this," Jairam said.
The minister maintained that though Gujarat's "sentiments for the lions are understandable, the threat should not be ignored".
"They (the Gujarat government) think the lion is a state animal. They might not be wrong.... But then there is a threat. Scientists have written to me (about the threat of inbreeding). Thousands of lions have died in Tanzania and Africa (due to inbreeding). And it could be possible here also," he said.
Jairam's proposal to relocate the lions is nothing new. Efforts to establish an independent second population of the animal at Palpurkuno Sanctuary — it was selected as the reintroduction site because it was located in the range the Asiatic lion inhabited before they were hunted into extinction around 1873 — have been going on for nearly a decade.
But Gujarat has been resisting these efforts, primarily because it would deprive Gir of the status as the world's only home of Asiatic lion. The state has also raised several other objections. The issue is now before the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Jairam said the decision on the proposed ropeway meant to take pilgrims to Jain temples atop Mount Girnar inside Gir will be take in a month's time.
The project, first proposed in1995, has been facing protests from wildlife activists, who say it will badly affect the about 69 vultures of a highly endangered species on the verge of extinction that live on the hill.
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