'Must study habitat, food base before translocation'
THE TIMES OF INDIA
AHMEDABAD: The 31-member parliamentary standing committee on science and technology and environment and forests, along with its chairperson Renuka Chowdhury, concluded its two-day visit to Gir forest on Wednesday.
Regarding translocation of lions to Madhya Pradesh, Chowdhury said that proper studies must be completed before shifting the big cats.
Interestingly, her statement runs counter to the view of the Supreme Court-appointed 12-member expert committee which recently said that lion translocation and IUCN studies can take place simultaneously. Gujarat, however, has opposed the move and demanded that the studies be completed before shifting the lions.
It may be recalled that in April 2013 the apex court had ordered translocation of the Asiatic lions from Gir to Kuno-Palpur.
During its two-day visit, the committee headed by Chowdhury also held meetings with civic societies and NGOs in the area. Talking to TOI, Chowdhury said that the people of Gujarat are against shifting of the lions.
"Translocation of the any big cat can have dangerous consequences if they are shifted without any proper studies," she said.
There are 523 lions in Gir forest spread over an area of 20,000 sq km in Saurashtra region.
"A situation should not arise where the animal is killed because they pose danger to the local habitat. One has to study the availability of food, the habitat in the area where it is to be shifted, and the behavior of the species to be shifted," she said.
Chowdhury further said that before shifting any animal, one has to understand the area and its climate and see if the animal would survive in the new habitat.
"Look at what happened to the Humboldt Penguins in Mumbai Zoo. These penguins were brought without proper studies," Chowdhury said.
It may be recalled that eight penguins were brought to Mumbai from a South Korean aquarium on July 26 last year. Of the female penguins, one named Dory died in October following a brief illness.
The other penguins are still open for public viewing.
Chowdhury was also angry with officials for reducing Gir's 'eco-sensitive zone' from 17 km to only 0.5 km.
"Individually, I am not happy with the move to reduce the eco-sensitive zone," she said. "I have asked the officials to reconsider their decision in the interest of the Asiatic lions and their conservation."
Chowdhury further said that besides holding meetings on Gir, the committee also held talks with farmers on the issue of genetically modified crops.
"According to the protocol, we cannot disclose what the report will contain as it is to be presented in Parliament for consideration by the central government," she said.