Thursday, April 18, 2013

Brain behind lion relocation snubbed at Gir

Brain behind lion relocation snubbed at Gir
Times of India

Ravi Chellam, the brain behind the translocation plan of Gir lions, faced hostility from forest officials and locals when he arrived at the sanctuary on Monday, the day the Supreme Court agreed to his scheme against vehement opposition by the Gujarat government. A day later, he beat a hasty retreat from the national park when he heard about protests planned against him.

A known expert on lions, Chellam was accompanying a delegation from the Prague zoo. But instructions were issued to treat him as a private guest. The rest of the Czech delegation members were considered as official guests when they checked into the 'Simha Sadan', the main government guest house at Sasan in Gir. Only Chellam was made to pay for the stay and other facilities, including the permit to enter the national park.

Officials believed that Chellam had actually come to identify the lions for translocation within six months, as directed by SC. The Czech delegation was told that Gujarat was willing to give lions for the Prague zoo if they removed Chellam as the consultant.

A frequent visitor to Gir, Chellam did his PhD from Saurashtra University in 1993 on 'Ecology of Asiatic lion'. He later joined the Wildlife Institute of India at Dehradun. In 1995, he co-authored the relocation plan which was quoted by the apex court while passing its order.

"We had gone to Simha Sadan with black flags and placards carrying the message 'Ravi Chellam go back', but he got wind of it and fled," said president of Prakruti Nature Club Dinesh Goswami.

When contacted Chellam said, "I had got information about the protests and was advised to leave for security reasons."

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