Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Soon, a new den for some lions of Gir

Soon, a new den for some lions of Gir
Business Line

Highly endangered: Apex court allows relocating some of the lions from Gir in Gujarat to Kuno Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. — Nivedita Ganguly

Some Asiatic lions of Gir in Gujarat may soon move to a new home. The Supreme Court on Monday permitted the relocation in limited numbers of the big cats to the Kuno Palpur sanctuary in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh.

The court said Asiatic lions were extremely endangered and all efforts against extinction should be tried, including relocation in limited numbers. The court has set up an expert body to decide the exact number of lions to be relocated to Madhya Pradesh, which will be done within the next six months.

Asiatic lions are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to their small population. Wildlife census data show just 400 lions in Gir forest — the last refuge of the Asiatic lion.

Wildlife enthusiasts have welcomed the move. "There should be a forest corridor for the lions to migrate from one forest to the other. In Gir, the growth in population has led to the lions straying outside the protected area, which is a cause of concern. The M.P. sanctuary is conducive for the survival of big cats because of its healthy prey base," said Shivang Mehta, a member of Nature Wanderers, a wildlife protection group.

The sanctuary reportedly has no significant tiger population. "There is just one male tiger in the sanctuary," said Anurag Sharma, who runs a tiger monitoring group called Tigerwala in Ranthambore.

The Wildlife Institute of India has done a study of the habitat to understand the prey base and also looked into the similarities between Gir and Kuno, which is critical to the survival of big cats like lions, Sharma added.

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