Saturday, May 19, 2012

Past efforts to settle lions in Madhya Pradesh had failed.

TNN May 17, 2012, 03.14AM IST
AHMEDABAD: While Madhya Pradesh is pitching Palpur Kuno as second home for the Asiatic lions, attempts to settle lions in the forest near this sanctuary had failed miserably in the past.
The Scindias of Gwalior advocated for the forests of Vindhya Pradesh where they had tried to introduce African lions. Sudipta Mitra describes the episode in his book 'Gir Forest and the Saga of the Asiatic Lion'. He writes, "Lord Curzon, while visiting Gwalior to shoot tigers in 1904, encouraged the Maharaja to rear African lions in his territory and as a good gesture, Curzon wrote a reference letter, which helped him a lot in getting the cubs."
The king showed interest and allotted annual budget of Rs 1.5 lakh for the project. His official visited Egypt and Ethiopia and managed to ship 10 cubs to Bombay. Three cubs died on the way. The king took personal interest and went to the Bombay port to receive the cubs.
The cubs were reared in an enclosure called Tapovan. "After a year, two females gave birth to five cubs. Enthusiastically, the Maharaja introduced four pairs in the state jungles at Sheopur (near present Palpur Kuno sanctuary) district, called Mohna covering an area of over 1000 square miles, as an experiment to see how the lions could settle down and breed," Mitra narrates.
But this step proved disastrous. The lions started attacking livestock and finally indulged in man-eating. "From 1910 to 1912, nine people were killed, they were once again caught and reintroduced in a schedule forest at Sheopur in 1915. Within four years, the lions got disbursed and created panic as man-eaters. Finally, they were killed at Neemach, Panna, Jhansi, Muraina and Lalitpur. By 1928, all had been killed except a lioness, which was eventually tracked down and shot in Jhansi district," read the sad account.
Various reasons were attributed to failure of this project including as another historian Arthur Blayney Percoval said, "If anyone was to blame, it was the Maharaja of Gwalior who wished to try and reintroduce the lions, which in the former age abounded in the forest of Schinde."
Efforts to introduce lions continued post-British era. The first initiative to relocate Asiatic lions from Gir to Chandraprapha forest in Uttar Pradesh was in 1957. But it ended in 1965 after all lions disappeared mysteriously in 1965.

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