Gujarat holds on to its lions against expert advise
Thursday, 29th April 2010
This lesser-known cousin of the African lion once roamed from the Danube to the Ganges, but today lives only around the 617 square mile Gir sanctuary in Gujarat.
So wildlife experts were appalled last month when Gujarat’s Government revealed that 72 lions – 20 percent of the population – had died in the past two years, including the one under the bridge, and three which fell into wells.
Earlier this month, another lion was hacked to death by farmers.
Local officials say the death toll is normal, insisting a five-yearly census completed this week will show that enough cubs have been born to increase the overall population to 400.
But their announcement has inflamed a 15-year dispute – which the Supreme Court is due to rule on next month – over whether to move some lions to the neighbouring state of Madhya Pradesh.
On one side are the central and MP governments, backed by wildlife experts, who say the lions have outgrown Gir and could be wiped out by an epidemic unless they are split up.
On the other is Gujarat’s Government, led by Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, who says the lions belong to his state, and would be worse off anywhere else.
“It’s become an emotional and political issue, but the future of the Asiatic lion should not be decided by emotions or politics,” said Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.
Publication : times online