Madhya Pradesh seeks Centre’s help to get lions from Gujarat after Supreme Court order

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NEW DELHI: The Madhya Pradesh government has sought the Centre’s help in getting Asiatic lions from Gujarat’s Gir which has been delayed by over five years despite a Supreme Court order, according to official documents.

In a letter to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, it said the state forest department and Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) feel that the process of shifting of the lions can be started immediately.

Hence, it is requested to issue necessary direction for the shifting of lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh, the letter said.

A copy of the letter was received in response to an RTI query filed by wildlife activist Ajay Dubey.

The Gujarat government, however, has maintained that it would wait completion of studies as per the relocation guidelines of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) before releasing the lions, according to the communique.

The Supreme Court had in April 2013 directed shifting of some lions from Gir to Madhya Pradesh by October of that year, saying the species “should have a second home to save it from extinction, due to catastrophes like epidemic, large forest fire etc”.

Gujarat has been opposing Madhya Pradesh’s request of seeking lions from it.

The Madhya Pradesh government had chosen Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Sheopur district of Gwalior division as a second home for over 500 Asiatic lions.

But not a single lion has been shifted so far.

According to other documents accessed by Dubey through RTI, about Rs 14.84 crore has been spent by the Madhya Pradesh government in translocation of 1,543 families from 24 villages of the area to pave way for lions entry into the sanctuary.

“The central government must issue a direction to ensure lions from Gir are shifted to MP at the earliest,” Dubey said.

The matter of shifting of lions had cropped up in a meeting, which was attended by representatives of Gujarat and MP governments besides a renowned wildlife scientist, in September last year.

In the meeting, the scientist had said Palpur-Kuno is ready to accommodate 40 lions from Gujarat, according to minutes of the meeting.

Source: Press Trust of India