Palpur Kuno is finally set to get 12 lions in the first phase of a conservation project involving translocation of Asiatic lions from Gir in Gujarat to neighboring Kuno in Madhya Pradesh. Experts from the Wildlife Institute of India had long identified Kuno in Sheopur district as the ideal location for a second home for the endangered big cats, but the project faced many delays due to objections raised by the Gujarat state government stating that lions were a matter of Gujarat’s pride. Additionally, it also questioned the animal’s safety in their proposed environment.

However, refuting the claims of the Gujarat government, the Supreme Court stated that the lion was an endangered species and a national treasure. Moreover, since the translocation was in the best interest of the animal’s chances of survival, it should be carried out at the earliest. Furthermore, the Court set a stipulated deadline of six months for the project to be initiated and also set up a twelve member committee comprising officials from Gujarat, MP, and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to expedite the process of translocation.

Kuno Ready To House The Pride Of Lions

The committee had, in its first meeting on 29th July this year, asked Wildlife Institute of India scientist, Y. V. Jhala, and scientist, Ravi Chellam, to formulate the translocation protocol. The two-member expert panel recently submitted a detailed report to the committee suggesting that 12 lions from Sasan area be trans-located to Kuno in the first phase. Jhala and Chellam have forwarded their report to all the twelve members of the committee and have asked for their suggestions.

The report suggests that the Palpur Kuno sanctuary, which currently has about 69 cheetals (spotted deer) per sq. km and about 80 other animals, was ready to house the 12 lions immediately. The report also outlined the objective of the project, mentioning that the extensive presence of lions would boost the local economy and help eco-tourism as well, but it was silent on the conservation efforts.

“We have also suggested that, in all, 30-40 animals from the wild be trans-located to Kuno over a period of time,” said Jhala. However, the final decision on the number rests with the committee.

Safeguarding the Future

The Gir Wildlife Sanctuary is the only remaining natural habitat to the 400 odd Asiatic lions in India. Recently it was reported that 100 cubs have been sighted in the sanctuary, delighting many. But while the rise in numbers of the lions is a sure sign of recovery of the species, even a single epidemic or natural calamity could wipe out the entire population of the lions in Gir and the world.

Therefore, keeping the survival of the Asiatic lions in mind, the Wildlife Institute of India mooted over the translocation of a pride of lions to the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh to create a second natural habitat for the species.

The translocation project would not only safeguard the Asiatic lions against the threats of extinction but it would also increase the prey density or prey per area for the remaining prides in the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary. While the MP government is not likely to raise any objections to the report, senior forest officials in the Gujarat government are reported to be preparing a detailed note in order to continue their protest against the translocation project.

Keep coming back to these pages to find if Lions of Gir finally get to expand their territory and strengthen their chances of survival.

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Image via cc/Flickr by Vaidyarupal and The Hindu

About Rohit Daniel

Rohit Daniel is freelance writer, photographer and an educator. He is an avid nature lover and enjoys travelling. He believes that animals have an equal right to our planet, and without wildlife this world would be an empty and meaningless piece of dirt floating in space.

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