India: Captive breeding to save the Asiatic lion

Chetan Chauhan
New Delhi, October 8, 2006

The Centre has found a way to stem the decline in lion population and keep states — willing to splurge on lion safaris — smiling.

As an alternative to relocating lions from the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary to Kunho Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh and to the proposed Lion Safari in Uttar Pradesh, the government has hit upon a captive breeding plan.

The Gujarat government had refused to shift the lions from Gir despite deaths and health threats. Gir is home to the dwindling tribe of the endangered Asiatic lions in India. The Central Zoo Authority (CRA) has asked both the state governments to look for lions in major zoos of the country and relocate them for captive breeding. “We have 71 lions in different zoos. Some of them can be transferred to the wild after captive breeding under strict scientific guidance,” CZA’s member secretary Dr BR Sharma said.

In case of Kunho, the authority has suggested shifting of lions from the Bhopal zoo, while lions from zoos in Lucknow and Hyderabad have been recommended for the safari in Etawah district. Admitting that relocating the animals from zoos into the wild was difficult, Sharma said the idea was not improbable.

Citing instances, he said Red Pandas were relocated from Darjeeling Zoo into the wild successfully. “It requires patience as it takes several years to free the animals from the captive breeding centre,” he said. The easiest way out was stymied when Gujarat rejected a Ministry of Environment and Forest’s proposal to provide lions from the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary. The ministry wanted a another habitat for the lions outside Gir fearing epidemics.

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