Tuesday, August 13, 2013

New numbers beat old case hollow

New numbers beat old case hollow
The Times of India

If you thought the question of diversity in gene pool and the argument on dangers of putting all eggs in one basket prompting the idea of translocation of lions first came up in the '90s, then you are wrong. Even in 1956, when the first translocation of lions took place to Chakia forest in the southeast of Banaras, the arguments were laid on the same grounds.

This is evident from minutes of the fourth meeting of the executive committee of the Indian Board for Wildlife held at Sasan Gir (Saurashtra) in January 1956. Minutes of the meeting, which are available with the Times of India, clearly state that the grounds were the same in 1956, when the translocation took place. And, the move failed.

According to the 1955 census the number of lions in Gir region was 290. The last count of the big cats in 2010, put same number at 411.

Ignoring the warning of Navanagar's Jam Saheb, who was the Rajpramukh of Saurashtra in 1948, the translocation took place and all the three lions which were shifted died due to inadequate area and unrestricted movement of grazing animals.

Officials said that even the Rajpramukh had defended the gene pool theory saying, "everybody wants to kill a male lion and hence their number was gradually decreasing. The male lion (being the head of the family) comes out boldly and gets shot easily." The Rajpramukh also gave out minute details of the lion behaviour to the members who had visited Sasan for the first time.

"Lions move in a pack. So, you should sent a whole group if you want to transfer lions from this part to another. Secondly, a combination of high forest and scrub jungle would be an ideal place for the lions to thrive. It is also essential that its prey (like sambhar and blue bull) should in plenty in the new areas. The states which want to introduce lions into their areas should take note of the conditions for their survival; otherwise (if they take just two), they would not succeed. I may suggest that we should add to the available feed of the lion by introducing fresh game like nilgai, sambhar and chital," he said.

The board also tried to pitch for the translocation stating that cattle owners are making a hue and cry that cattle lifting by lions were becoming a menace. "This is the cry of the owners of the cattle. I would like to make it clear that the lion does not take more than 75 kills in a year. The lion kills an animal and eats it for several days, as he does not know when he will get the next kill. So all this you should take into account."

However, despite all the warning from the Rajpramukh, the translocation took place and all the three lions died. The recent Supreme Court order states that the gene pool in MP would be kept healthy by sending fresh male lions from Gujarat every three to five years.

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