NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday directed concerned organizations to shift Asiatic lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh.
Asiatic lions will now have a second home in Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno wildlife sanctuary as the apex court permitted their relocation in limited numbers from Gujarat’s Gir forest.
The Supreme Court rejected Narendra Modi government’s refusal to allow translocation of lions. The state had said these animals were pride of Gujarat. The court said Asiatic lions were extremely endangered and all efforts against extinction should be tried, including translocation in limited numbers.
The court has also constituted a large expert body to decide the number of lions to be relocated and closely monitor their translocation in Madhya Pradesh.
A bench of Justices KS Radhakrishnan and CK Prasad has given six months time to the wildlife authorities concerned for trans-locating the lions.
Currently, there are around 400 Asiatic lions in Gujarat’s Gir sanctuary.
The bench, however, said the introduction of African cheetahs in India from Namibia cannot be allowed, saying preservation of critically endangered native species, like the wild buffalo and the Great Indian Bustard, should be given primacy.
Under its Rs 300 crore Cheetah Reintroduction Programme, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had proposed the introduction of the African Cheetahs in the country.
The apex court, however, in May last year had stayed the implementation of the project.
The Gujarat government has been fighting a legal battle in the apex court against trans-location of lions in the wake of a PIL seeking their trans-location to Madhya Pradesh.
Madhya Pradesh had last year sought translocation of lions to Kuno Palpur sanctuary, claiming it has all the wherewithal to ensure harmonious environment to the threatened species.
Gujarat had opposed the plea of Madhya Pradesh, saying lions would not be safe there as the central state had failed to preserve its own tiger population in the Panna reserve forest.
Ninety-two Asiatic lions have died, including 83 of natural death, in the past two years in Gujarat’s Saurashtra region while there has been no case of poaching.
As per the government data, 46 lions each died in 2011 and 2012. Out of the total 92 lions dying in the past two years, 43 were cubs, 29 female and 20 male felines.