Saturday, June 9, 2012

Department keen to complete lions’ pride.

LUCKNOW: The proposed lion safari, which is coming up in Etawah, the native place of chief minister Akhilesh Yadav may not be another Gir. However, it will certainly give glimpses into the behaviour of lions, the most social of all big cats, and the population will be zoo-bred.

Dispelling doubts that the safari will be comparable to the Gir forest where population comprises wild lions, PCCF (Wildlife) Rupak De, said, "Safari is an extended zoo." The department is in consultation with some of the zoos to bring in lions to Etawah, which will not only have a safari, but also a lion breeding centre. Forest officials say that the zoos of Hyderabad and Rajkot have also responded positively, so far.

The ambitious lion safari project was conceived in 2005-06 by the Mulayam Singh Yadav government. But, Mayawati, after coming back to power in 2007, had put the project in the cold storage. The project, however, was revived as quickly after SP swept the power this time.

Nearly 150 hectares of land in Fisher Forest on Etawah-Gwalior national highway, close to the Chambal Sanctuary, was acquired and notified as lion safari in 2005. But, work never progressed due to BSP being in power. Though safari might still take time to assume shape, officers said they can bring in the lions and keep them at zoos in Lucknow and Kanpur.

The department plans to bring, initially, two male and 5 to 6 females, which is the size of a Lion pride, mostly comprising five to six related females, their cubs, and two males who mate with the females. The safari might not have wild lions, but department is keen on bringing Asiatic Lions of pure genetic bloodline. African and Asiatic Lions are the two surviving species of the animal.

Considering that lions are extremely social, to the extent that cubs born to same mother do not mate, and even those born to different mothers but brought up together choose mating partners other than each other, safari will have to be provided with lions, born outside it, from time to time.

"Setting up a breeding centre, in such a case, is sustainable," said BS Munal, member secretary, Central Zoo Authority. The lion safari has got the clearance from both the CZA and the Supreme Court. "Since we have to re-visit all the aspects of the project, after so many years, hence there is a delay," said the PCCF (wildlife).

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