Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lions, cheetahs to share forest land in MP? SC will decide

Lions, cheetahs to share forest land in MP? SC will decide
Times of India By Nitin Sethi

Should India implant the Namibian cheetah in Madhya Pradesh or the 'Gujarati' lion? The decision is now to be made by the Supreme Court with wildlife experts and government agencies unable to come to a decision.

The case for taking some lions from Gujarat - home to the last remaining wild population of the grassland big cat -- to Palpur-Kuno in Madhya Pradesh has been hanging fire in the apex court for seven years now. The issue has got muddled further with the Union government deciding to import the cheetah from Namibia and attempt to make the same forest patch a home to the animal that went extinct in India in 1947. Not to forget the tiger already resides in the same forests.

The court's final order could also push the line on how far the judiciary and the Centre can intervene in matters of wildlife conservation with the subject being in the concurrent list of the Constitution.

To compound the matter further, Gujarat has made the lion a matter of pride and does not want to part with even a few animals from the Gir wildlife sanctuary. Gujarat has argued that the lions are doing just fine in Gir, in fact growing in numbers, and Madhya Pradesh has a bad track-record with tigers. It also pointed out that the Union government has decided to introduce the cheetah after importing it from Namibia and this should be done before the lions are taken, if at all.

The MP government has pitched its hat in the ring for both the animals. It claimed the forest patch in MP has a better prey base for the lion which is cramped in the relatively small Gir wildlife sanctuary and it has prepared the grounds for long - including relocating people years ago.

The original move to translocate lions from Gir was begun by the Union environment ministry with worries that the single population could be wiped clean in case an infectious disease spread through the region and a small group should be reared separately in Madhya Pradesh

But now there are wildlife activists advocating for the cheetah as well. The Union environment ministry gave a nod to this wild cat a year back even though there was opposition internally to bringing another carnivore back into India, with its attendant large international funding and high profile and intensive requirements, when its already difficult to manage the existing tiger population.

The internal apprehensions were over-ridden by the then environment minister who supported the wildlife groups promoting the cheetah.

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