Sunday, March 30, 2014

MoEF puts spanner in lion hunter Jaideep Singh's efforts to bring African lion trophy back from South Africa.

Raghav Ohri, ET Bureau Mar 28, 2014, 02.13AM IST
CHANDIGARH: In the drawing room of a home in Chandigarh's posh Sector 4 a lion poses on a platform. The king of the jungle seems to be slightly bemused at finding himself in a northern Indian city rather than deep in the Kalahari, where he's supposed to belong. No doubt the lion would have been equally surprised when confronted by Jaideep Singh, 44, who felled him with one shot from a 7 mm Van Chester rifle. Right now he's stuffed and mounted and as alive as the elephant's tusk that's displayed close by in Singh's home.
But where this tale gets really wild is in relation to the ways of the Indian bureaucracy and the trouble Singh has taken to get his "fully mounted trophy" home from South Africa. While the kill was made in June 2012, Singh had done all the complicated paperwork necessary to bring the lion back beforehand, including getting the approval of the Directorate General of Foreign Trade.
Then the environment ministry's wildlife division refused him a no-objection certificate.
Why? The May 30, 2013, communication, signed by Shiv Pal Singh, joint director, reads thus: "This ministry has taken a policy decision to discourage import of look-alike hunting trophies which are look-alike India fauna. In this regard, this is to inform that the African lion trophy is a look-alike of Asiatic lion and hence is not allowed for import."
ET has reviewed a copy of this explanation.
Aggrieved, Singh approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court and after five months, the court allowed import of Singh's trophy to India in January, pending the ultimate fate of the case.
After the trophy came to India, the authorities expressed their inability to "maintain" the trophy, Singh said. He then asked the High Court to allow him to maintain the stuffed animal. The High Court allowed this with a caveat. Singh had to deposit a cheque of Rs 10 lakh first, which he did and brought the lion home.
It's arguably the first time in the country that a court will decide such a unique legal proposition. Singh, who has an estate and owns property, had first applied to the DGFT in April 2012, saying he was interested in going after an African lion and some members of the deer family.
Unlike India, hunting is allowed in South Africa to maintain the ecological balance in wildlife habitats. There is also a charge involved, estimated at about $1,000, although ET couldn't verify this independently.
If the client is successful in shooting the lion, the hunting safari company, after treatment of the skin, exports the trophy to the hunter, provided an import permit is issued by the receiving country.
The import was denied after Singh returned to India. That's when he was given the "lookalike" explanation for this by the ministry. Singh approached the high court three months later. Singh said he needed to go to South Africa to fulfill his "pent-up desire" to hunt what he described as "the most beautiful animal of all" because the Indian government had failed to maintain an ecological balance in its jungles, resulting in the country banning the activity.
While this was Singh's maiden attempt at hunting a lion, his success hasn't gone down all that well at home. His daughter Nayantara, 14, is against the killing of animals, said the surprisingly soft-spoken Singh.
In the Kalahari, Singh followed the pugmarks of the nine-year-old wild cat for three days along with a team comprising a professional hunter and Kalahari locals.
Singh said he fell in love with the sport when he was 12. "Shooting is in our genes," he added. While his grandfather hunted elephants, Singh is the first in the family to have shot a lion. He got his trophy from the wildlife authorities about two weeks ago.
"There isn't much maintenance required as it is very fresh. It may require little more maintenance as it gets old," he smiled. "As against other animals, lions are very soft-skinned." Asked about the case, Singh flatly refused to comment. "The matter is sub judice.

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