AHMEDABAD: Gujarat has finally presented a strong case to protect its pride — the Asiatic lion. Instead of taking refuge in technicalities, the state government has recently presented before the apex court scientific studies and guidelines of world's top conservation body — International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) — suggesting that translocation of lions from Gir in Gujarat to Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh may not be a correct move.
In an affidavit filed in response to a petition by Wildlife Conservation Trust (WTC), Rajkot, challenging the April 15, 2013, order of Supreme Court directing translocation of Gir lions to MP, the state government has submitted that there is no immediate ground for lion translocation as the big cat does not face any threat of extinction for the next 100 years. Currently, there are 411 lions in Gir sanctuary in Gujarat as per 2010 census.
"IUCN, in its red list, has noted that current population of Asiatic lions — though vulnerable — is a large and healthy one. Population and Habitat Viability Analysis workshop organized by IUCN in India has predicted 0% chance of extinction of lions over next 100 years," the affidavit says.
In fact, the Gujarat government has insinuated that translocation may prove counter-productive for tigers in MP instead. It has quoted National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) report that emphasizes Kuno Palpur as an important corridor for tiger movement between Ranthambore and Sihor. "This corridor should be developed as a tiger habit for tiger conservation."
"Gujarat is of view that it is undesirable from a scientific, technical and legal point of view to direct the translocation of Asiatic lions to Kuno. It would be in the best interest of Asiatic lion if this subject is left to the experts in the field and to statutory authorities."
Last month, a 12-member expert panel formed for translocating lions to MP sought maiden opinion from NTCA whether lion and tiger can co-exist in Kuno Palpur or if the body would rather prefer Kuno as a sole tiger habitat.