No sign of Gir transfer, MP seeks to shift zoo lions to Kuno
Times of India
BHOPAL: A year after Madhya Pradesh won an eight-year legal battle with Gujarat government to translocate a few Gir lions to its Kuno-Palpur wildlife sanctuary, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government seems to have given up hope of getting the prized predators and is now looking to have zoo lions from the south released into the sanctuary.
The state government has decided to translocate Hyderabad-bred Asiatic lions to the Kuno reserve in Sheopur district, instead of waiting for the Gir lions, whose relocation was opposed by Narendra Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat.
Gir is the only place in the world where the Asiatic lion survives in the wild. The idea behind the Kuno-Palpur project was to raise a buffer population of wild lions as an insurance against epidemics or natural disasters wiping out the Gir lions.
In August this year, the Gujarat government's curative petition against the shifting of Gir lions too was dismissed by the Supreme Court.
As CM, Modi had refused to entertain any request from the Chouhan government to shift the lions till the apex court on April 15, 2013, set a six-month deadline to the environment ministry to relocate the predators to Kuno. The court held that the species was under the threat of extinction and needed a second home. But the court's order has not been followed.
Government sources in Hyderabad told TOI that the MP forest department had approached them asking for pure breed Asiatic lions, bred in captivity, for the Kuno reserve.
Asked about the move, state chief wildlife warden Narendra Kumar said, "It would be too early to comment." Other senior forest officers in the state, however, confirmed they have decided to shift lions from Hyderabad zoo to Madhya Pradesh.
But the Kuno project might take time to kick off, following global concern over the recent death of the Asiatic lion pair — Lakshmi and Vishnu — at Etawah's lion safari in Uttar Pradesh. The two zoo-bred lions died within a month of relocation from Hyderabad, said sources. Both suffered 'multiple infections', including viral infection that caused paralysis. The Etawah safari was a pet project of the Samajwadi Party government, which started two months ago. The lions were brought to Kanpur zoo from Hyderabad in April, 2013, and shifted to Etawah safari in September 2014.
(MP has sought zoo-bred Asiatic lions from Hyderabad.)
In May, the MP government sent its second reminder to the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to take urgent measures to shift lions from Gujarat to Kuno. More reminders were sent to additional director general (ADG) wildlife, (MoEF), who heads the 12-member committee formed to execute the translocation.
The move to relocate big cats, first mooted in 2000, had been hanging fire because Gujarat steadfastly refused to part with the majestic lions.
The reported move to release zoo-bred lions in the Kuno-Palpur sanctuary neither makes sense from the conservation standpoint nor would it be safe for the translocated animals. It's well documented that animals bred in captivity do not adapt well in the wild. Moreover, the idea behind Kuno-Palpur was to have a second home for Gir lions so that epidemics and natural disasters do not finish off this last surviving wild population of Asiatic lions. The Supreme Court has turned down Gujarat's curative plea against the transfer of Gir lions to the sanctuary. The MP government should be asking for the court's orders to be implemented, instead of thinking up such disastrous schemes.