Monday, May 14, 2012

Gir lion on MP website, Gujarat upset

Gir lion on MP website, Gujarat upset
Times of India

Neighbour Using Big Cat To Sell Kuno Palpur Sanctuary

A lioness staring into the lens with a stately gaze. This one photograph on the Madhya Pradesh (MP) Tourism department's website to sell the Kuno Palpur Sanctuary has upset government officials in Gujarat - the only home of the Asiatic lion in the world at present.

MP Tourism has started selling the Kuno Palpur as an alternative site for the wild cats even as the two neighbouring states fight a legal battle in the Supreme Court over shifting some lions from the Gir sanctuary.

While MP is desperately seeking lions, Gujarat is steadfastly holding on to them, not ready to share the `Khusboo Gujarat Ki' mascot with anyone.

Is conserving the lion really MP's aim as it claimed in the Supreme Court, or does it simply want to bring in more tourists by adding another juicy attraction? This is a question many in Gujarat are asking.

Talk of some lions being shifted started again last week when the Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the cheetah reintroduction programme by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in Kuno Palpur.

The text on the MP website is carefully worded. "Kuno has been selected as an alternate home for the endangered Asiatic lion, which is now confined only to the Gir National Park and Sanctuary of Gujarat," the site says. "The area (Kuno Palpur) is a historical range of Asiatic lions."

A senior Gujarat government official alleged that MP's lion reintroduction plan had a clear commercial angle - attract more tourists. He alleged that tourism within Kuno Palpur already existed and once the lions were shifted, the number of tourists would only go up.

Lions vs Tigers

In its bid to sell Kuno Palpur sanctuary as an alternative site for lions, the Madhya Pradesh tourism department website takes note of Gujarat's objection that there are tigers in the area. "There is very little evidence of tiger in the area," the MP site states. In that case, MP needs to correct the information on its forest department website, which sells Kuno Palpur as a tourist attraction and states that there are tigers in the area, along with other animals. The two big cats are sworn enemies and lions, flourishing in Gir, are unlikely to survive a territorial struggle with tigers.

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