They, however, also believe that all is not lost as the government now plans to file a curative petition along with the new International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines, to turn the tide in their favour.
“The SC rarely reverses its decision, as is seen in 90% of such cases. But the curative petition may hold some hope. Unlike the review petition, the court will have to hear both the parties before pronouncing its verdict. Also, the IUCN guidelines will exert pressure in form of stringent measures preceding the translocation,” said a forest department official, requesting anonymity.
Former chief wildlife warden of Gujarat, GA Patel, too, agreed that dismissal of the review petition was not a surprise. “That is how most of the review petitions end but we can still prove our point in the curative petition. Also, the new IUCN guidelines demand fulfillment of certain conditions. In this case, as far as I know, Madhya Pradesh will fall short of fulfilling these,” said Patel. A wildlife activist also agreed about the IUCN guidelines role as the clincher. “Even the SC in its verdict agreed that IUCN guidelines need to be followed which are not being fulfilled in this case. This may help Gujarat’s cause,” said the activist.
Lavkumar Khachar, a prominent member of the state wildlife board, said that in the debate, the main question of the safety of the lions is being ignored. “Today in Gujarat, the lions have grown in numbers and spread beyond their original territory and are yet safe. Will that be possible in the Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary? I doubt, because had that been the case, tigers would have been spreading out in Madhya Pradesh, which is not happening,” said Khachar.
He further added that he was not happy with the way lion conservation programme was being handled in Gujarat. “It can still be improved. In fact the wildlife institute of India should be helping the Gujarat government help conserve the lions better,” he said.