Tuesday, May 08, 2012

MP wants lions before cheetahs

MP wants lions before cheetahs
DNA By Jumana shah

The battle for relocation of Asiatic lions to Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh took a fresh turn on Monday. The Union ministry of environment and forest informed the Supreme Court that they intend to go forth with their plan to reintroduce the cheetah in India at Kuno this monsoon. This came as a surprise to the petitioners and Madhya Pradesh government as the cheetah project will push lion relocation by at least two more years.

Last year, when the lion relocation project was caught in a limbo and the sanctuary was already readied for a wild cat, the National Board for Wildlife in India (NBWLI) had identified Kuno Palpur as the best location from among various sites across the country.

Now that the case is moving ahead in SC, environmentalists would prefer the Asiatic Lion as it is an endangered species.

Environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta says the cheetah do not serve the purpose of wildlife conservation. "They are killed in Namibia as their expanding population cannot be accommodated. About 150 of them are to be brought as part of the Centre's cheetah reintroduction project," he said.

Interestingly, the Great Rann of Kutch was short-listed as one of the sites for reintroducing the cheetah but the NBWLI chose Kuno for the first phase.

Another lawyer, associated with the case, said the Centre seems to be in "advance stages of the project and they said the wild cat can be imported in two months. But the amicus curiae opposed the move by the Centre and insisted that the sanctuary has been identified for lions and they should be given a priority".

The hearing will continue for two consecutive days now as the court wants to conclude the arguments before vacations. The Madhya Pradesh government and wildlife experts have proposed to shift some lions from Gir forest in Junagadh to MP to create a different gene pool. Gujarat has refused to part with any lions, and the matter reached the apex court about six years ago. The case is in the last stages of hearing.

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