Last month, Mumbai NGO Empower Foundation wrote to a panel created to study and chart out translocation of Asiatic lions from Gir sanctuary in Gujarat to Kuno Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, asking them to stay the trans-location till various issues are not resolved.
The NGO has cited more than 29 violations of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines and other points why the trans-location plan might be a failure. They highlighted MP’s gun culture and rampant poaching that makes conditions adverse for lions.
“Madhya Pradesh constitutes about 50% of the world’s tiger poaching besides the risky co-existence of the lion and tiger makes it unsuitable for trans-location... Also, the expert panel does not consist of a lion specialist, only tiger experts. They should consult experts, maybe from Africa, to find out how lions might react to trans-location,” says Jalpesh Mehta, founder of Empower Foundation who has also written to the IUCN and Maneka Gandhi, seeking intervention.
The last census of 2010 recorded the population of Asiatic lions to 411. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court directed the MoEF to take steps to reintroduce the Gir lions in Kuno. A report by two senior members of the expert panel raised concerns on trans-location over tolerance of local communities in Kuno to man-animal conflicts might be lesser than Gujarat.
Experts say it is important to avoid concentration of a species in one place to eliminate risk of extinction from epidemics and natural calamities. “It is important to have a small number placed in a different area... Kuno sanctuary was our best option from many others. What we need now is the Madhya Pradesh government to come forward with assurances on how it will prepare for trans-location. We’ll discuss it at our next meeting,” said AJT Johnsingh, member of the expert panel and veteran biologist.