strategy that won’t require Gujarat to release any of its lions to another sanctuary
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) have proposed an alternative method to conserve the Asiatic lions in their ‘second home’ in the proposed Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh by encouraging captive lions to breed there.
“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 into the wild outside the enclosure,” said Dr Rajesh Gopal, member secretary, NTCA.
The proposal will be discussed at the next meeting of the National Board for Wildlife, on October 8. Once approved, it will be around four years before the third-generation lions can be released into the wild, the agencies say.
So far, the Gir sanctuary has been the Asiatic lions’ only home. But after their numbers rapidly dwindled under the onslaught of poachers, epidemics, development, and natural disasters, a proposal was mooted in 1996 to shift some of Gir’s lions to the Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. However, Gujarat has consistently turned down this idea, forcing the wildlife authorities to come up with a plan that does not require the state’s cooperation. If it is pushed through, the 11-year wait for a second home for the endangered species might well be over, giving the ‘king of the jungle’ a second lease of life outside Gir, in Kuno-Palpur, by 2011.
“Forget poaching, even an epidemic could wipe out an isolated population. Hence the idea of a second reserve at Kuno. But the Gujarat government never agreed. Now we don’t need to wait for them anymore,” says Dr Gopal.
The initiative could raise questions from some conservationists and some eyebrows too, considering India opposes the Chinese model of releasing captive-bred tigers into the wild as a conservation method. “We are identifying pure-gene lions and they will be kept off display and bred in natural enclosures with prey species. The tigers in Chinese farms are victims of severe inbreeding and can hardly be called tigers,” says Dr B R Sharma, member secretary, CZA, defending India’s plan. http://infochangeindia.org/environment/news/forget-gir-relocation-now-captive-breeding-to-save-asiatic-lion.html