Citing reports that the male tiger, T-38, from Ramthambore had been found moving between the tiger reserve in Rajasthan and Kuno-Palpur, the petitioner, in an amendment to its petition moved on Monday, has claimed that “the court was never informed about the contiguity which the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve enjoys with Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.”
In its amended petition, the NGO says that Kuno lacks in prey base. Further, given its proximity to Ranthambore, introduction of lions in Kuno could have a severe impact on the population of tigers as lions can travel in search of food to Ramthambore.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a statutory authority under the Centre, seems to support the NGOs’ argument. In its report titled, ‘State of Tigers, Co-predators and prey in India-2008’, the NTCA supports the stand of Gujarat that Kuno-Palpur is a tiger-occupied area close to other tiger habitats including Ranthambhore. Further, as the proposed site for translocation of lions from Gir is close to the tiger areas, tigers keep frequenting the Kuno-Palpur sanctuary.
The NTCA report recommends that the potential habitat connectivity between Ranthambhore, Kuno-Palpur and reserve forests of MP’s Sheopur district be improved “to form a viable arid zone westernmost Tiger Conservation Unit in India.” The recommendations of the NTCA are legally binding under Section 38-V of the Wildlife (Protection) Act-1972, the NGO has submitted in its amended petition.
Movement of predators
In its order dated April 15, 2013, a division bench of the Supreme Court had dealt with the issue of co-existence of the tiger and lion. The bench had taken note of the fact that Dr. Asad Rehmani, director, Bombay Natural History Society and a member of the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) had pointed out that presence of the tiger in Kuno was in no case detrimental to the re-introduction of lions.
Another member of the standing committee, Dr Divyabhanusinh Chavda, had also emphasized the need to create a second home for lions. However, the court had not taken into account the possibility of reverse movement of lions from Kuno to Ranthambore. Earlier, the Rajkot trust had filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the translocation of Gir lions to Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. But it had failed to mention the movement corridor between the two sanctuaries.