DATELINE: September 7, 2006
New Delhi, Sept 7. (UNI): The Guajrat Wildlife Department, which is strongly questioning the rationale of shifting some of Asiatic lions from the Gir forest in the State to Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, is expanding the habitat for the jungle kings.
"Large scale efforts are on to expand the habitat for the lions, and we see no reason why they should be driven away from their homes for lack of space," Gujarat Chielf Wildlife Warden Pradeep Khanna said talking to UNI here.
The controversial project was mooted after it was found that the Gir forests, home to the world’s last Asiatic lions, were turning a little too cramped for the lions. The forests are spread over an area of 1,400 sq km. There have been cases of the lions straying out of the sanctuary and attacking cattle in nearby villages.
However, the Gujarat Government has strongly opposed the move. "The state Wildlife Department has with the cooperation of the people sucessfully conserved the lions all these years, so the plan to shift them was unnecessary, "said Mr Khanna.
We are adding more area to their habitat and making them conducive for the growth and survival of the lions, he said.
He was here to take part in a two-day confernce of state conservators of forests and chief wildlife wardens organised by the Ministry of Forest and Environment.
Moreover, Mr Khanna said, his Department did not find the preparation in Madhya Pradesh adequate enough to house the lions.
He said their opposition to the move was also based on the ground that no purpose will be served by shifting a small number of the lions (the proposed number is two males and three famales) to the sanctuary in the neighbouring state.
It will be too small a group and will lead to loss of genetic diversty, he said.
He pointed out that two such efforts made in Chandraprabha and Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh have failed.
One more factor that is overlooked by those in favour of shifting the lions was that the protection of the lions was in the very ethos of the people of Gujarat, said Mr Khanna.
"They have learnt to live with the lions. They are born in and grow up in the ethos," he added.
On the other hand, Madhya Pradesh Principal conservator of Forest PV Gangopadhyaya, who had also come to attend the press conference, said his Government was making all efforts to make Palupur sanctaury conducive for housing the lions.
"It is a Central Government project. Already Rs 25 crore have been spent on the project, under which 24 villages have been relocated so far.
Recently Chief Ministers of both the States have spoken with eachother over the issue, he said.
He said a pre-base survey for bringing two male and three female lions to Madhya Pradesh had been completed by the Wildlife Institute of India.
Source: The Hindu