Thursday, December 22, 2016


Even as environment and forest minister Anil Dave informed the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that Madhya Pradesh government had not sought 'immediate' transfer of Asiatic lions from Gujarat to Kuno-Palpur sanctuary, official records show exactly the opposite. Earlier in May, Ravi Srivastava, former Principal Chief Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden, Madhya Pradesh, wrote to the environment ministry and stated explicitly for immediate execution of the lion translocation project, to implement orders of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court had ordered translocation of lions in April 2013 but a petition of the Wildlife Conservation Trust, Rajkot, challenged the order and the matter is currently sub-judice.

Srivastava's letter, addressed to Roy P Thomas, joint director, wildlife, of the environment ministry, had pointed out that floods witnessed in Amreli and Bhavnagar in July 2015 had killed 1600 blue bulls, 90 spotted deers and 10 Asiatic lions. He added that such natural calamities pose a threat to the lion population and thus requested the ministry to, "immediately kick start execution of Hon'ble Supreme Court's order dated 15th April 2013 without any further delay." Dna has accessed a copy of the letter.

Dave, in his reply, flatly denied having received any request for transfer of lions. Dave's fellow Members of Parliament from Madhya Pradesh Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath had posed the question on translocation of lions.

In his reply to the Parliament, Dave had added that the translocation matter is a long-term action and the whole programme encompasses action for over 25 years. "The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has constituted an Expert Committee for planning and implementation of translocation of Asiatic lions from Gir, Gujarat to Kuno, Madhya Pradesh. The group includes representatives of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat," Dave had informed the Parliament.

dna tried to get Srivastava's reaction to Dave's reply but he did not respond to calls or text messages. dna also tried to contact Roy P.Thomas for a comment but could not reach him.

Bhopal based wildlife activist, Ajay Dube, who had sourced the letter under the Right to Information Act, 2005, told dna, "Anil Dave is lying and it is shameful he is doing so even as belongs to Madhya Pradesh. His ministry should follow Supreme Court's decisions. I will inform the Members of Parliament (Scindia and Kamal Nath) about the letter and the false claims made by the minister," Dave said.

Scientists and activists have long pushed for the translocation as Gujarat is the only place where Asiatic lions are found in wild. There are fears in the conservation community that a big natural calamity or epidemic may wipe out the entire population, thus rendering India bereft of the majestic big cats. It is also argued that since their population has crossed the carrying capacity of Gir forests and adjoining regions, translocating them will be helpful.

Gir's lion population is now spilling into neighbouring human settlements, leading to regular conflicts. As per the latest population enumeration carried out in 2015, there are an estimated 523 lions in the Gir forests.


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