Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Gujarat’s Gir Lions to Move to New Rehabilitation Site

The Indian Minister of State for Environment & Forests, Jayanthi Natarajan, stated in Lok sabha on 19th March that the Wildlife Institute of India had carried out a survey for identifying potential sites for relocation of Asiatic lions to alternative areas outside Gir, Gujarat. 

Out of the four sites identified for introduction of lions, namely Darrah Wildlife Sanctuary, Jawahar Sagar Sanctuary, and Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajasthan and Kuno-Palpur Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, the Kuno-Palpur sanctuary is found to be the most suitable site for relocation of Asiatic Lions from Gir forests. 

                                          Asiatic lion ( Panthera leo persica) Photo: Z. Imam

Kuno-Palpur Sanctuary is most suitable site on account of its area, shape and vegetation. In its report submitted in 1995, the Wildlife Institute of India had recommended the following actions to be taken up before relocating lions to the area: 

  • Complete acceptance of the proposal for lion relocation by the concerned State Governments, as well as the Central Government; 
  • Initiating an awareness and eco-development scheme in the Kuno-Palpur area to elicit support and participation of location community to the relocation of lions; 
  • Establishment of the Kuno National Park over an area of approximately 700 sq. km. involving translocation of all human settlements from the National Park area and stoppage of livestock grazing therein; 
  • Establishing a special team of adequately trained forest department personnel to implement the scheme and to ensure adequate protection to the area; 
  • Undertaking habitat improvement measures, including weed removal and enhancing the availability and distribution of water; 
  • Augmentation of the resident wild ungulate population by additional release of chital and nilgai to build up an adequate prey base for the reintroduced lions. 

Natarajan has said that the Ministry of Environment and Forests has released funds to the State Government of Madhya Pradesh for rehabilitation of 1545 families from the Kuno-Palpur Sanctuary.

In addition, funds have also been provided during the last three years to the Madhya Pradesh Government to take up various measures for improvement of habitat and management of the Sanctuary. 
 The Minister however clarified that no specific time limit has been fixed for the relocation of lions.

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