Thursday, April 18, 2013

Supreme Court approves translocation of some of Gujarat’s lions to Madhya Pradesh

Supreme Court approves translocation of some of Gujarat's lions to Madhya Pradesh
The Times of India

The Supreme Court's decision to permit the translocation of the Asiatic lion from its only home in Gujarat's Gir forest to Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh is prudent. The translocation project is a long pending one and should serve to protect Asiatic lion numbers. As things stand, the entire population of the species — concentrated in the Gir habitat — risks being wiped out in case of an epidemic or a natural calamity. In such a scenario, having a second home for the lions would insure them against their extinction.

In this context, the Gujarat government's effort to stonewall the translocation project defies logic. It's true that the state needs to be lauded for the success of the Gir lions. But to object to the translocation of a handful of lions on the basis of Gujarati pride is petty. Protecting our animal species is a collective responsibility. Gujarat's contention that the new habitat isn't conducive for the lions doesn't cut ice either. The National Board for Wildlife approved the Kuno sanctuary after a detailed study. The area also happens to be a historical habitat of the lions. Besides, in recent years Madhya Pradesh has shown considerable success with the translocation of tigers at its Panna reserve. There is no reason why it can't replicate this with the lions.

On the other hand, failure to shift the lions to a second home may see them meet a fate similar to that of Tanzania's lion population, which was almost wiped out due to an epidemic. Confined to a single site the Gir lions are in danger of excessive inbreeding, leading to various infirmities in the lion population. If Gujarat truly cares about its lions, it would do well to drop its objection to the translocation project and help Madhya Pradesh script its own lion success story.


Listen to lion's protectors

Renuka Bisht

Once upon a time, the Asiatic lion used to majestically stride across India, from Punjab to Madhya Pradesh (MP), Gujarat to Jharkhand. Further afield, its roars could be heard over Iran, Iraq, Syria and a lot of Eurasia really. Coming close to extinction in the early 20th century, this big cat now rambles wild only in Gujarat's Gir sanctuary. That's a wondrous and rare conservation triumph. In a well-governed universe, the architects of such success would lead the way in projects aimed at extending their triumph to new territories. But conservation can't escape the dystopic governance that overruns the rest of India. Red tape, bureaucracy, court orders—any and all authorities ride roughshod over the voice of the only sanctuary that has nurtured the Asiatic lion to good health.

Less than a decade ago, there was a very real fear that the Gir lion would go the way of the Panna tiger. But during the years that the MP government wouldn't even admit to rampant poaching, the Gujarat government was devoting money and concern to the menace. It was also learning important lessons by trial and error. Its forest department evolved from ousting pastoralists to befriending them as an integral part of the Gir ecosystem—briskly compensating them for assailed cattle, efficiently getting the private sector to sponsor sub-projects like making villagers' wells safe for lions.

When they have so much good experience under their belt, it's irrational to ignore the voice of these Gir experts when they question the translocation of their lions to a MP habitat that suffers poaching as well as climatic and bio-diverse peculiarities that make it unlikely for the Asiatic lion to thrive there. But it seems that conservation in India is not about animals but about politics and officialese.

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