Friday, August 29, 2014

MP had plan to shift zoo-bred lions, looking at Modi's objection on those in wild

MP had plan to shift zoo-bred lions, looking at Modi's objection on those in wild
The Times of India

A day after Supreme Court dismissed Gujarat government's curative petition against shifting Gir lions to Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, top wildlife authorities in the state claim they already had a back-up plan to translocate zoo-bred lions from Gujarat, if Narendra Modi was possessive about those in the wild. The Gujarat government under Modi opposed the transfer tooth and nail in an eight-year legal battle.

On Wednesday, three-judge bench headed by CJI R M Lodha rejected the curative petition filed by Gujarat government against apex court's April 15, 2013, verdict allowing shifting of lions from Gir to Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.

"We were ready with a project to shift zoo-bred lions from Sakkarbaug Zoo in Junagadh in case Gujarat government refused to shift some from the wildlife sanctuary. Centre had sanctioned a special budget for this project which was prepared much before the curative petition was filed," said retired wildlife officer. Gujarat forest department too had agreed to shift three zoo-bred lions to Madhya Pradesh. But after the Supreme Court junked the curative plea, the Gujarat forest department may stall this transfer too.

Two days after the April 15 verdict, a decision was taken by the Gujarat government to transfer four lions to a safari at Uttar Pradesh chief minister AkhileshYadav's native Saifai village in Etawah district. Gujarat forest department had decided to transfer four lions to Uttar Pradesh, against the demand of 10.

Gujarat government also gave an explanation for its move, claiming that MP wanted lions from the wild to be translocated to a wild habitat for breeding while UP wanted shifting of zoo-bred lions to Saifai.

Madhya Pradesh's chief wildlife warden Narendra Kumar said lions will be brought to MP sometime soon.

In its first communique after Modi's swearing-in as Prime Minister, MP government had in June sent a proposal to ministry of environment and forests seeking a budget of Rs 79 crore to shift Asiatic lions from Gujarat. The budget includes Rs 20 crore for infrastructural development like construction of hospital and procurement of new vehicles and Rs 59 crore for relocation and rehabilitation of two more villages within Kuno sanctuary.

Retired chief wildlife warden H S Pabla said with the dismissal of curative petition all decks have been clear and there should not be any other problem in translocation.

A few wildlife officials in MP, however, claim there are more hurdles left as two Gujarat-based NGOs have filed separate petitions challenging translocation of lions to Kuno. First, a writ petition was filed by Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT), a Rajkot-based NGO, which claimed certain facts were not brought to notice of Supreme Court. This petition was admitted in February. Last week, Supreme Court sent a notice to MP government to respond within a month.

Another was filed this month by Ahmedabad-based Priyavrat Gadhvi ? a bio-technologist and member of Gujarat State Wildlife Board. He claimed Supreme Court was kept in dark on importance of Madhya Pradesh's Kuno-Palpur sanctuary as an important natural corridor for tiger dispersal. Gadhvi said Kuno is a migration corridor for tigers of the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan to Madhav National park in MP. The petition has been admitted, but is yet to come up for hearing.

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