Floods revive debate over translocation
The Times Of India
AHMEDABAD: The flash floods that hit Amreli a few days back have come as a shot in the arm for votaries of the proposal to shift Gir's Asiatic lions to Kuno Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. The devastating floods triggered by rains in the last week of June killed at least 10 lions.
Ravi Chellam, the man who came up with the lion translocation project, says it should serve as an eye-opener for the Gujarat government which should now agree to shift some of the lions to Kuno Palpur.
On the contrary, Gujarat government officials and experts based in the state say that such incidents are rare and that there is no fear of the entire lion population being wiped out by some disease or natural catastrophe. Some officials pointed out that the Kuno river flows right through the sanctuary and such floods can destroy the entire population in the sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh too.
Chellam, however, said that the floods were evidence that survival of the species was at risk because the big cats were segregated in only one sanctuary. The May 2015 census had revealed that there were 523 Asiatic lions in Gir and surrounding areas.
"There is no way to predict the occurrence of natural catastrophes. That is why it is crucial to establish at least one more free-ranging population of lions before such threats manifest again," said Chellam.
He told TOI over the phone that the Apex Court has already given its judgement on the issue. "We should translocate the lions. The state of Gujarat has already exhausted all its legal options," Chellam said.
The proposal to shift some of the lions triggered a legal battle which lasted a long time. Finally, in April 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that some of them should be relocated to a sanctuary in a neighbouring state. A 12-member committee was also formed by the apex court to look into translocation.
However, former additional principal chief conservator of forests and member of the National Board for Wildlife, H S Singh, said that the flash floods should not be used to push for the translocation of lions. The big cats will not be able to survive in the 49°C summer temperature of Kuno Palpur, he said.
Singh further said that the area that was affected by the floods is a new area populated by lions in the last decade. "The management plan for these areas is still being prepared," he said.
SC Pant, principal chief conservator of forests, said that the flash floods in Amreli were something new for the area and that is why it had caught the forest department unawares.