Saturday, July 06, 2013

Reluctant to part with lions, Gujarat moves SC

Reluctant to part with lions, Gujarat moves SC
The Times of India

The Narendra Modi government has moved the Supreme Court seeking review of its April 15 judgment directing translocation of a small population of Asiatic lions from their only habitat in Gir forests to Kuno Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh and proposed a second home for them within Gujarat.

Reluctant to part with even a small pack from its pride of lions, the Modi government warned against translocation. "Top carnivores have never been successfully trans-located," it said in its petition.

"We propose that we may first have a programme of having a second home in the same climatic region in Gujarat as a pilot project and closely monitor the progress and learn from the exercise as to how the prides behave etc. It will have numerous advantages. In fact, it will be in tune with international guidelines," it added.

The review petition, filed through standing counsel Hemantika Wahi, said a second home within Gujarat for the Asiatic lions would be more practical as it would have similar climatic condition, topography, flora, fauna and prey base.

Dislocating a few lions from the socially well-knit prides would prove disastrous for them, the state said. "The group and pride composition and their inter-relationship in a population are governed by several factors, and any external intervention in a group by removing some of them may result into social disturbance and disintegration of group and pride. Group territoriality, group hunting and communal cub rearing form the basis of the cooperation and a strategy for their survival success," it said.

The Gujarat government said Kuno, where the lions were to be trans-located within six months of the April 15 judgment, suffered heavily at the hands of poachers. It also feared that there could be a tiger-lion conflict in Kuno.

"Recent reported sighting of tiger cubs in the Kuno region is a pointer to the existence of some tigers in the region, which is not conducive to the translocation of lions in that region, since the same would lead to niche-conflict between co-predators," the state said seeking a reconsideration of the apex court's judgment.

On April 15, a bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and C K Prasad had ordered moving some lions to Kuno wildlife sanctuary, brushing aside the Modi government's passionate resistance.

The court had asked the ministry of environment and forests to take urgent steps for reintroduction of a small number of lions to Kuno from Gir on the ground that the highly-endangered species needed to be insulated from extinction, which could happen if a disease struck the small area in which they live.

The court had said the relocation exercise should be undertaken under the watch of a multi-member expert body and should be completed in six months.

Responding to Gujarat government's argument that lions should not be moved out of Gujarat, the bench had said, "No state, organization or person can claim ownership or possession over wild animals in the forest. Animals in the wild are properties of the nation for which no state can claim ownership and the state's duty is to protect wildlife and conserve it."

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