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AHMEDABAD: Madhya Pradesh has agreed in principle to accommodate African cheetah in Kuno Palpur. This could mean that the neighbouring state, which is famous for its tigers, is off Gujarat's back as far as the Asiatic lion is concerned.
The MP government had been trying to get wild Asiatic lions from its only habitat in the world in Gir, but Gujarat had refused to part with its pride. Finally, the Centre had proposed that MP settle for zoo-bred Asiatic lions for Kuno Palpur.
However, after a presentation by the Wildlife Institute of India and the Wildlife Trust of India over reintroducing cheetah at Kuno Palpur, it looks like the controversy could be drawing to a close, as the two big cats cannot survive together. Gujarat government had also taken the stand in SC that lions and tigers cannot stay together. The matter is pending in the Supreme Court since 2006.
Sartaj Singh, forest minister of MP, told TOI over the phone, "Union minister for forest and environment Jairam Ramesh had decided to introduce cheetah in Kuno Palpur and Nauradehi wildlife sanctuaries in MP, apart from Rajasthan. The Wildlife Institute of India had made a detailed presentation after which the MP chief minister has agreed in principle to have cheetahs in Kuno. As of now we have put the proposal to shift lions to Kuno on hold".
HS Pabla, MP's principal conservator of forest, said, "We were offered Nauradehi and Kuno for reintroduction of Cheetah. But if we decide to shift to Nauradehi, the department will have to shift people from 21 villages, while Kuno Palpur was already prepared for the lions, so we just have to bring the cheetah and release them". The WTI also had rated Kuno as priority for reintroducing the cheetah. SK Nanda, principal secretary (forest) Gujarat, said, "We are not aware of MP's decision. But if it is true it is a welcome decision. We have been contending that two big cats cannot stay together. And Kuno already had tigers".