Madhya Pradesh's Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary may soon become a second home for Asiatic lions as majority members of a central team have favoured their translocation from Gujarat's Gir.
The recent development has brought a ray of hope for the Madhya Pradesh government and wildlife lovers who have been awaiting the shifting of the lions after a Supreme Court judgement in this regard in April 2013.
This matter was discussed during a meeting of the expert committee, headed by an Additional Director General of Forests under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, on translocation of Asiatic lions from Gir National Park to Kuno sanctuary.
"Kuno has achieved amazing recovery of the habitat and is practically ready for translocation of lions," as per 'points of discussion' with the expert committee.
Various studies, including the one by Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII), have been conducted to assess the suitability of Kuno to accommodate the lions.
"All members of the expert committee, except (the representative of) the Gujarat Forest Department (GFD), were of the opinion that these studies may continue in parallel to the process of translocation of lions. But the GFD has recorded its objection to this proposal," it said.
The Madhya Pradesh Forest Department will complete the process of declaring Kuno as a 'national park' by the end of next month, reads the discussion points, a copy of which was received in response to an RTI query filed by wildlife activist Ajay Dubey.
Dubey has also filed a contempt petition in the apex court, seeking implementation of its 2013 order.
In a project report to the Environment Ministry, WII has said lion reintroduction in the Kuno sanctuary would not wait for the completion of an ongoing study since the institute's earlier ecological assessment had already validated the potential of that area to support about 40 lions.
The Madhya Pradesh government has been seeking transfer of Asiatic lions from Gujarat to its Palpur-Kuno sanctuary.
The reintroduction plan of lions has faced stiff opposition from Gujarat.
In April 2013, the Supreme Court had ordered shifting of some lions to Kuno.
The apex court had directed the Environment Ministry to shift them by October, 2013. However, not a single lion has been shifted so far.
Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Sheopur district of Gwalior division has been chosen as a second home for over 500 Asiatic lions.