This has left lion experts miffed, as they feel that lions also need to be protected. Since amendments to the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 is being introduced to curb the growing trade in animal parts in the international market, sidelining lion conservation may expose the animal to poachers. The amendment bill was introduced in view of the rise in wildlife crime and after taking into consideration the recommendations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The bill mentions the Gujarat lions in the list of wildlife but it does not include provisions for lion conservation, as it does for the tiger. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed both the Asiatic lion and the Indian tiger in the same category -- endangered species. While Gujarat is the only home of the lion - this limits the spread of its gene pool - the tiger is found in 17 states of the country.
Section 51 (6) of the said bill states: "Where the offense relates to hunting in a tiger reserve or altering the boundaries of a tiger reserve, such offence shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years and also with fine which shall not be less than five lakh rupees but which may extend to thirty lakh rupees."
Section 51 (5), which deals with sanctuaries for other animals, including lions, states: "Where the offense relates to hunting in a Sanctuary or a National Park or altering the boundaries of a Sanctuary or a National Park, such offense shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to seven years and also with fine which shall not be less than five lakh rupees but which may extend to twenty-five lakh rupees."
Additional chief conservator of forests and lion expert H S Singh says, "The priority of the Centre is the tiger. Lions are never given equal weightage. There is need for the same provisions for lions and tigers. The Centre has not done much for the conservation of lions; even the funds granted are not adequate. The global success of lion conservation cannot be attributed in the slightest to the Centre."
Dr Divya Bhanusingh Chavda, an expert and member of the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife, says, "I have not gone through the provisions of the new bill. But why just lions and tigers? All wildlife in the endangered and critically endangered category should be given equal provisions."
What is Pantheraleopersica?
The amendment bill does not mention all the species by their common names; instead, it uses their zoological names. In the entire bill, the Asiatic lion is referred to as Panthera leo persica. Officials said that the bill does mention tigers as tigers but when it comes to other species, it mentions them by their scientific names. Wildlife activists say that local policemen handling wildlife crime cases are unlikely to look up a dictionary to establish whether a protected animal had been harmed. In such cases, the accused would go scot-free simply because the police did not know the zoological names of the animals concerned.