After rejecting the proposal to send Asiatic lions to a sanctuary in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat government is set to transfer four animals to the proposed safari at Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav's native Saifai village in Etawah district.
Gujarat Forest Department has decided to transfer four lions to Uttar Pradesh as of now, against the demand of 10.
"Madhya Pradesh wants lions from the wild to be translocated to a wild habitat there for breeding purposes while the demand from Uttar Pradesh is for zoo-bred Asiatic lions to be transferred to another zoo in a safari," a forest department official said here.
"We have passed orders to send four Asiatic lions -- two male and two female -- from Sakkarbaug Zoo in Junagadh to the safari in Etawah," Chief Wildlife Warden C N Pandey told PTI.
"There is no problem with transferring lions from one zoo to another. The proposed safari in UP has an enclosed area and requisite approvals from the Central Zoo Authority. There are around 150 Asiatic lions outside Gujarat in various zoos in India and the world," he said.
"Officials from UP had come and visited us, we have told them that we shall give them four lions from our zoo, probably they are going to airlift the lions," Pandey said.
The proposed safari at Saifai was mooted in 2005. It is going to have a breeding progamme for Asiatic lions.
According to Gujarat forest department, the area where the safari will come up has similar climate, terrain and vegetation as the Gir National Park in Gujarat.
The dispute between Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh over translocation of lions from Gir reached the Supreme Court which in April this year allowed the translocation, saying the species was facing the threat of extinction and needed a second home.
However, Gujarat has filed a review petition against this order. The state contends lions would not be safe in Madhya Pradesh, considering that tiger population in the Panna reserve forest in the state was dwindling.