NEW DELHI: Countering Gujarat's opposition to lion translocation project, the Madhya Pradesh government told the Supreme Court that a second habitat for Asiatic Lions in Kuno — cleared by National Board of Wildlife — was mandatory to avoid Tanzania's disastrous experience in Serengeti where outbreak of an epidemic almost wiped out the lion population.
Madhya Pradesh met with disdain Gujarat's apprehension about safety of lions. The Shivraj Singh Chouhan government did not deny the past lapses allowing poachers to wipe out entire tiger population in Panna, but said the new model of wildlife protection had got it laurels from many quarters and its efforts being replicated by other states.
"The efforts of the state have been duly recognized by Tiger Authority of India, which assessed the performance of the state of MP as outstanding," she said.
MP said Asiatic Lions continued to be in the Red List of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and hence, "must be relocated and reintroduced in an area which would be suitable alternative habitat for its survival in the event of outbreak of any epidemic".
On the suitability of Kuno Palpur Sanctuary, MP said it was the historical range of Asiatic Lion, though the modern habitat was limited to Gujarat's Gir forests. To avoid any disease posing grave threat to lions concentrated in one location, there was consensus among experts and scientists for setting up of a second free-ranging population of Asiatic Lions, it said.
MP said effort to establish second home for Asiatic Lions was first made in 1957 by examining the suitability of Chandraprabha Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh, but later in 2008, the National Board of Wildlife on February 18, 2008, unanimously recommended translocation of lions from Gujarat to Kuno Palpur, which was reiterated in December, 2009.
"With the highest technical body National Board for Wildlife taking a decision and confirming it after a review, the parties/stakeholders are required to implement the same and in the event of their non-implementation, it is open for the Supreme Court to direct the same," it said.
Gujarat had also objected translocation of lions to Kuno Palpur on the ground that the state was planning to reintroduce cheetahs there and that the cats could not co-exist.
MP said, "As far as introduction of cheetah is concerned, the said project is in its initial stage and is yet to be panned out. In view of the stay order passed by the Supreme Court on May 8, it is clear that presently the project of introduction of cheetah is not to be implemented, and thus, the said objection (of Gujarat) is infructuous."