Saturday, May 31, 2014

Tiger-Lion Conflict Looms Large in Kuno-Ranthambore.

Posted: Monday, May 26, 2014 9:47 am | Updated: 10:00 am, Mon May 26, 2014.
The Asiatic Lion which is found as an isolated population in the Gir forests of Gujarat is in the news again. There are now concerns regarding its proposed relocation to Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. A report submitted by Wildlife Conservation Trust-Rajkot, an NGO, suggests that the Gir lions shifted to the sanctuary may come into direct conflict with the tigers straying out of Ranthambore reserve in Rajasthan. The conflict situation arises because the sanctuaries, Kuno and Ranthambore, share a natural movement corridor. This corridor could be used by the big cats to enter into each others protected area and there would be potential lion-tiger confrontations. But this is not what the doctor advised when the lion reintroduction plan was drawn up and could well cast a shadow over the entire project. The NGO had already filed a petition in the apex court to halt the translocation of lions, and if this latest development is anything to go by, things are not very rosy at the moment for the Asiatic Lion. 
Male tiger exposes the dangers posed by a shared corridor
A male tiger, identified as T-38 in the report submitted by the NGO, is found to have used the corridor to cross over from Ranthambore to Kuno. Now the question arises why the courts were not informed about the contiguity between Ranthambore and Kuno in the first place. Looking at how things are unfolding, it is a valid point and if the two sanctuaries did share a joint boundary, the courts should have been informed so that it could have taken an informed decision regarding the translocation of the lions.
Double edged sword: Both the tiger and the lion population would be affected
The NGO claims that the prey base of Kuno is limited, and is not sufficient even for the lions that are to be shifted. So, there would be intense competition between the lions and tigers, straying from Ranthambore, for the same prey. However, it is not just the relocated lions that would be at a disadvantage, as the tigers in Ranthambore could be equally impacted. As competition for prey increases, the lions may venture out of Kuno in search of food and enter Ranthambore through the shared corridor. This would then reduce the prey base of the tigers. Not only that, lions may even attack and kill tigers. These factors could have a serious implications for the famous tigers in Ranthambore National Park, as their population might shrink. The NGO is therefore trying to convince the court to reconsider its decision to allow relocation oflions to Kuno. 
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a statutory authority under the Centre, has also joined the debate and is endorsing the views of the NGO. To address the problem of common corridor, NTCA in its recommendation has suggested building a viable arid zone westernmost Tiger Conservation Unit in India. The NGO has taken note of the observation made by the NTCA and has submitted an amended petition before the court containing the recommendations which are legally binding under Section 38-V of the Wildlife Protection Act-1972. 
Earlier Supreme Court order overlooked threat posed by a shared corridor
The present situation is in contrast to what the honorable Supreme Court had accepted in its earlier order dated April 15, 2013. A division bench of the court had then seconded the opinion of Dr. Asad Rehmani, director, Bombay Natural History Society and a member of the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), that there is no valid reason why lions shouldn’t be introduced into Kuno. The bench was of the view that both the tiger and the lion can co-exist without affecting the other. 
What the court failed to take note of at that time was the possibility of lions using the shared corridor to enter Ranthambore. Dr Divyabhanusinh Chavda, another member of the standing committee, however, did insist upon creating a second home for the lions. 
Author Bio-
Anshul is a wildlife enthusiast, who loves to wander around different wildlife destinations of India. At the same time, he has got a command over writing and thus, he pens down and shares his experience with the world.

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