Lions to have second home: SC
The Supreme Court on Monday directed “re-introduction” of Asiatic lions from Gujarat’s Gir forest to the Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. It wanted the sanctuary to be developed as a second home for the big cats to safeguard them from extinction.
A bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and C K Prasad considered various factors, including technical studies, prey density and relocation of 24 villages with about 1,547 families, undertaken by the Madhya Pradesh government, to justify the relocation.
The Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary was found to be a historical habitat for Asiatic lions.
The court also rejected the Gujarat government’s opposition to such a move.
“There is an uniformity in the views expressed by bio-scientists of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), National Board of Wildlife, Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) and other experts that to have a second home for the endangered species like Asiatic lions is of vital importance… it (Kuno-Palpur) has been found to be the most ideal habitat,” the bench said.
The court noted that in case of an epidemic, it would be very difficult to save the lions from extinction, given smaller area of the Gir forests. It further pointed out that possibility of diseases spreading to Girnar, Mityala, Rajula, Kodinar and surrounding areas cannot be ruled out.
The court, however, rejected the MoEF decision to import African cheetahs from Namibia to Kuno before relocation of the lions, describing it as “arbitrary, illegal and clear violation of the statutory requirements” provided under the Wildlife Protection Act.
In its verdict on a PIL, the court directed the Centre to take urgent steps for preservation of the Great Indian Bustard, Bengal Florican, Dugong and Manipur Brow Antlered deer, over and above the Asiatic lion and wild buffalo, and start recovery programmes for them as pointed out by the National Wildlife Action Plan.
Saving big cats
* The translocation of Gujarat lions has to be done within the next six months.
* A panel of experts will decide the number of lions to be translocated from one location to another.
* The Supreme Court felt the lions should have a second home especially if an epidemic or fires wipe out the endangered species from one location.
* The apex court rejected the Gujarat government’s opposition to the translocation.