Saturday, April 20, 2013

Life for cheetah, death for lion

Life for cheetah, death for lion
The Times of India

It is almost like a firing squad waiting out there in the lion's new home in Madhya Pradesh where Gujarat's lions will be translocated in six months as per Monday's Supreme Court order.

The Kuno-Palpur wildlife sanctuary is in Sheopur district where the gun cult is strong. There are an estimated 4,800 firearms for a population of six lakh. And, these are only licensed firearms — the number of unlicensed weapons is likely to be much higher as this is the tip of Chambal valley, which is also infested with dacoits. Vijaypur tehsil, where the sanctuary is located, has 1,400 licensed weapons.

The non-violent culture of the lions home in Saurashtra is a heaven compared to Sheopur where game hunting for meat is common. The Gujarat government has stopped issuing new gun licences in the lion territory, mainly spread over Junagadh and Amreli districts, but such a move in MP will only make the local populace resentful of the lion's presence.

The gun issue has also been raised by none other than Ravi Chellam, scientist assisting the SC's 'forest bench' and also the brain behind the relocation project. He had in his report in 2012 stated, "It is worrying that poaching continues to be a conservation challenge in this area and gun ownership is widespread. Consumption of bush meat is still prevailing. This is clearly an unacceptable and dangerous situation."

Even the Union ministry of forest and environment, while it was considering moving the African cheetah to the same location in place of the Asiatic lion, has taken note of the gun cult in the proposed new home.

A ministry survey in 2011 stated "20.3% of respondents accepted either owning guns or presence of guns in the village. In the 21 villages out of the 41 surveyed villages people own guns. In more than half the village samples (51.22%), people possess guns, only 1.11% of respondents revealed that guns are being used for hunting."

The report further states, "In the areas surrounding Kuno, dacoits are still at large and people keep guns with or without licence for self defence. Poachers and illegal possessors of guns would in any case not admit the possession of weapons. Hence the reported presence of guns could be far lesser than the actual presence of guns."

Times View

If the Union ministry of forest and environment is concerned about the African cheetah being gunned down in Sheopur (MP), why is it not showing the same concern for the Asiatic lion? Any forester would tell you it is easier to kill a lion than a cheetah with a gun. The lion lives in perfect harmony with people of Saurashtra who share the habitat with all living beings. Gujarat should argue in a review petition before the Supreme Court that the shifting move is as good as sending the lions before a firing squad.

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