Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Dec 17:
Even as the legal battle between Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh governments on the issue of translocation of the Asiatic lion from Gujarat’s last abode in the Gir forests to the Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in MP continues to rage, the Odisha government has asked its Gujarat counterpart for two pairs of Asiatic lions to be housed in Nandankanan Zoological Park for breeding purposes.
“We have asked the Gujarat wildlife authorities for translocation of two pairs of Asiatic lions (two male and two female) to house in Nandankanan Zoo. It will help us add to the number of Asiatic lions in the zoo,” said an official of the Wildlife department.
“Talks are on with Gujarat officials in this regard and we hope to receive the lions within the next three months,” the official said.
The Asiatic lions will, in all likelihood, come from Sakkarbaug Zoo in Junagadh.
The last time lion breeding took place in Nandankanan was in 2002-03 when three cubs were born.
The only National Zoological Park of the state, which boasted of over 54 Asiatic lions only a few years ago, is now left with only 11 —five males and six females. Ageing is a big concern for the zoo administrators as eight out of 11 lions in the zoo are above 15 years. The average life expectancy of a lion is around 18 to 22 years.
The zoo experienced major crisis when around 10 cubs born in the zoo could not survive beyond six months between 2003 and 2005 owing to unknown reasons.
“Notwithstanding that experience, however, we hope that the breeding of the translocated lions will be successful,” the official said.
A 22-year-old Asiatic lion died on October 3 last due to deteriorating health condition and old age. Another 20-year-old male lion died on May 22 this year owing to old age.
However, the move of Odisha government may hit a roadblock considering that the Gujarat government has entered into a legal battle with the MP government after the former refused to translocate the Asiatic lions to Kuno-Palpur sanctuary.
On April 15, the Supreme Court had aksed the Gujarat government to agree to the translocation of lions to MP. However, the Gujarat government filed a review petition against the apex court order in May. The verdict on the petition was still pending.
Significantly, the battle over the translocation had taken an ugly turn becoming a fight for state pride among the two BJP-ruled states.
Gujarat chief minister Modi had refused to entertain the request of his MP counterpart Shivraj Singh Chouhan government for translocation of the lions.
What helped strengthen the Gujarat government’s case was the findings of a study on lion translocation done by Empower Foundation, a Mumbai based NGO, which maintained that lions should not be translocated and be allowed to migrate naturally instead.
Ninety-two Asiatic lions have died, including 83 due to natural casuse, in the past two years in Gujarat’s Saurashtra region while there has been no case of poaching. As per Government data, 46 lions each died in 2011 and 2012. Out of the total, 43 were cubs, 29 females and 20 male felines.