Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jairam wants a few Gir lions for MP

Jairam wants a few Gir lions for MP
Indian Express

Union Minister for Environment and Forest Jairam Ramesh on Thursday called for the transfer of lions from Gir to Palpur Kuno Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. He said this is necessary to prevent the possible inbreeding among the surviving Asiatic lions at Gir.

"We will be happy to see a second home for Asiatic lions in MP. I have written to the state government. They should consider this," said Jairam. He said his arguments are based on inputs provided by scientists, who have raised the threat of inbreeding among the species. He said Gujarat's sentiments for lions are understandable, but the threat should not be ignored.

"They (the state government) think that lion is a state animal. They might not be the wrong. But there is a threat. Here in Gir, the lions have an inbred population and their genetic diversity is also limited. Many scientists are of the view that the lions should have a second home. Thousands of lions have died in Tanzania and Africa and inbreeding can become a possibility here too. I have written to the Gujarat government to transfer some lions to MP. But the government here thinks lions are their pride possession," he said.

The minister expressed the hope that someday the state government will accept the proposal to translocate some lions to MP.

For over a decade, effort has been made to establish a second independent population of Asiatic lions in Palpur Kuno Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. The sanctuary was selected as the reintroduction site as it is located in the former range of lions before they were hunted into extinction in 1873.

But the Gujarat government has been resisting the relocation as Gir will lose its status as the world's only abode of Asiatic lions. The big cats are part of a pet project of Chief Minister Narendra Modi and he has gone on record against their transfer within or outside India. The government has raised a number of objections to the proposal, and the matter is now in Supreme Court.

Ramesh has even offered Modi tigers in exchange for lions. But Modi's response was, "We want Gujarat to have tigers, but we will not give our lions."

As per the last Census, the sanctuary is home to around 400 lions.

On the proposed rope way in Gir, Ramesh said the decision will be taken in a month's time. Since its inception in 1995, the project has hit a road block. Activists have protested against it on the premise that the trees on the hills are home to 69 vultures — a highly endangered species which is on the verge of extinction.

Ramesh said it's a difficult call as the area was declared a sanctuary in 2008. He added that he had round of talks with the concerned parties, and the ministry will submit a report within a month.

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