MP says no to lions from Gujarat
THE TIMES OF INDIA
AHMEDABAD/BHOPAL: With Gujarat showing no signs of parting with its lions in the wild to be translocated to Kuno Palpur despite a 2014 Supreme Court order, the Madhya Pradesh government has made a move to source lions from zoos across India for the newly prepped sanctuary spread over 344 sq km.
Ironically, the neighbouring state has underscored it does not want lions from Gujarat zoos.
In a proposal to the Centre, the MP forest department has sought lions from various zoos across the country barring Gujarat. The proposal cites that the MP forest department wants Asiatic lions from various zoos in order to create a separate gene pool of lions which is distinct from Gujarat lions.
Jitendra Agarwal, chief wildlife warden of MP, told TOI, "When the translocation project was conceived, the plan A was to introduce lions from the wild of Sasan Gir in Gujarat to Kuno Palpur while plan B was to introduce lions from the zoos.
With plan A not really working out, we have requested the Union government to put plan B in motion. The government has informed us that a meeting of the expert group on translocation would be soon held to decide on the matter".
Top officials in MP told TOI the Centre was specifically requested not to consider lions from any zoo in Gujarat. "Given Gujarat's reluctance to part with its lions, there is a possibility that the state government may not approve the relocation of lions from zoo as well," the official said.
Forest officials conceded that while the expert committee on lion translocation termed Kuno Palpur as "best suited" sanctuary due to adequate flora-fauna and prey base, Gujarat has been dragging its feet to part with its wildlife.
"Only seven meetings for translocation were held in four years, the action plan for reintroduction of lions in Kuno Palpur is yet to approved and Gujarat continues to raise objections and demand a series of more studies. This forced us to consider to bring zoobred lions."
Forest officials in Gujarat when contacted said they are not aware of any such proposal by MP.
Gir in Gujarat is the last abode of Asiatic lion with 523 lions as per 2015 census. 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. To substantiate their claims of releasing zoo big cats in wild, MP has stated that they have the experience to reintroducing orphaned tiger cubs in the wild after raising them and making them expert hunters.