Asiatic Lions: New reserve on the anvil

Asiatic Lions: New reserve on the anvil By Jay Mazoomdaar



Gujarat the only home of the Asiatic lion had until now not agreed to give

any of them for a proposed sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, even though the

lions in Gir were under threat from poachers, epidemics and natural



But now the Centre has prepared a fresh blueprint for a backup that won’t

require Gujarat to release any of its lions.


The 11-year wait for a second home for the endangered Asiatic lion at

Kuno-Palpur in Madhya Pradesh will soon be over.


The National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Central Zoo Authority have

a fresh plan ready.


”We will select pure bred Gir lions from different zoos and these first

generation lions will breed in a big natural enclosure which is already

there at Kuno-Palpur. We will release herbivores for the second generation

lions so that they can hunt and get naturalised. In this process, the third

generation lions should be fit to be released in the wild outside the

enclosure,” said Dr Rajesh Gopal, Member Secretary, NTCA.


The blueprint will be discussed at the next meeting of the National Board

for Wildlife on October 8. Once approved, it will be about four years before

the third generation lions can be released in the wild.


But the initiative may raise eyebrows, considering India has opposed the

Chinese model of releasing captive-bred tigers into the wild.


”We are identifying pure gene lions and they will be kept off display and

bred in natural enclosures with prey species. And the tigers in Chinese

farms are victims of severe inbreeding and can hardly be called tigers,”

said Dr B R Sharma, Member Secretary, CZA.


Kuno-Palpur was selected in 1996 as a second home for the lions but the

Gujarat government refused to part with them. It was the threat to the lions

in Gir that finally got the authorities moving.


”Forget poaching, even an epidemic can wipe out an isolated population. So

the idea of a second reserve at Kuno but the Gujarat government never

agreed. Now we don’t need to wait for them anymore,” said Dr Rajesh Gopal,

Member Secretary, NTCA.


If all goes well, the Kuno-Palpur sanctuary will be the Asiatic lion’s

second home by 2011, unless the Modi government now objects to the very idea

of having lions outside Gujarat.



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