A top wildlife institute has favoured shifting of about 40 lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh’s Palpur Kuno sanctuary, which has been delayed by over three years despite a Supreme Court verdict.
In a project report to the Centre, Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has said that lion reintroduction within the sanctuary would not wait for the completion of an ongoing study since the institute’s earlier ecological assessment had already validated the potential of that area to support about 40 lions.
“The current study in concurrence with the lion reintroduction exercises would serve as a benchmark for post-release long-term monitoring of lions, prey and other predators and would be mostly helpful in identifying social and ecological status of the landscape outside the sanctuary boundary which lions are likely to explore once the population reaches its carrying capacity of 40 lions inside the sanctuary after 15 years,” it said.
The report was received in response to an RTI query filed by wildlife activist Ajay Dubey.
The Madhya Pradesh government has been seeking “immediate” transfer of Asiatic lions from Gujarat to its Palpur Kuno sanctuary.
In a recent communication to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the state government has rejected all concerns raised by the Gujarat administration for not giving lions to it.
“It is a very common sight to see ‘Bagh Dev’ in many of human settlements in and around tiger reserves of Madhya Pradesh wherein people give a deity space to the tigers around and adore them.
“Therefore, once the lions are reintroduced at Kuno, the cultural bondings between the lion and human beings will get established in a natural way,” the MP government had said, in its reply to the issues raised by Gujarat.
The reintroduction plan of lions in Madhya Pradesh had faced stiff opposition from Gujarat.
In April 2013, the Supreme Court had ordered shifting of some of lions to Kuno. The apex court had directed the Environment Ministry to shift them by October, 2013. However, not a single lion has been shifted so far.
Palpur Kuno Sanctuary, in Sheopur district of Gwalior division, has been chosen as the second home for over 500 Asiatic lions in Gir.
In its letter, the MP government cited the 2015 floods in parts of Amreli Bhavnagar area in Gujarat which “resulted in washing away of more than 1,600 blue bulls, 90 spotted deer and 10 Asiatic lions. The MP government requested its Gujarat counterpart to immediately kick off the execution of Supreme Court’s order without any further delay.
The copy of letter was also received by Dubey in response to another RTI query.
Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Anil Dave had recently told the Lok Sabha that his ministry had not received any request for the “immediate” transfer of Asiatic lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh.
“No request for immediate transfer of Asiatic lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh has been received from the government of Madhya Pradesh,” Dave had said.
The Minister said the process of translocation of a few Asiatic lions from Gir National Park to Palpur Kuno is a “long-term action”.
“The whole programme encompasses action for over 25 years. The Ministry of Environment and Forest has constituted an Experts Committee for planning and implementation of translocation of Asiatic lions from Gir to Kuno. The group includes representatives of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat,” he had said.