- Tuesday, 20 March 2012 00:02
- Rathin Das | Ahmedabad
A meeting of the State Wildlife Board, chaired by Chief Minister Narendra Modi, has reiterated Gujarat’s earlier stand that the Asiatic lions should not be shifted to Madhya Pradesh as the big cats may not be safe there.
This contentious issue is currently under the consideration of Supreme Court following a petition by a wildlife conservationist who has expressed apprehension that an epidemic in Gir forest might wipe out the entire species of the Asiatic lions.
At the last count in summer of 2010, there were 411 Asiatic lions in the 1,412 square kilometres of Gir National Park and the Sanctuary around it, the only natural habitat of this species of big cats.
But despite Gujarat’s good track record of conservation of the lions in Gir, the Madhya Pradesh Government had been demanding that some of the big cats should be shifted to Kuno Palpur reserve forest. The Gujarat Government has opposed the move all along.
The Gujarat State Wildlife Board members felt at the meeting that the Asiatic lions in Gir are the precious assets of Saurashtra region and, thus, they should not be shifted elsewhere.
The meeting was attended by Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel, Principal Secretary (Forest & Environment) SK Nanda, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Pradeep Khannan and many wildlife lovers.
Earlier in 2009, the villagers and animal lovers in and around Gir had protested against the Centre’s move to shift the lions to Kuno Palpur. The Madhya Pradesh Government had then approached the National Board of Wildlife to shift some of the Asiatic lions from Gir to Kuno Palpur.
The people of the Gir region had whole-heartedly supported the State’s Forest department officials in putting up a strong opposition to the move to shift the Asiatin lions.