New conservation body for Gir Lion

Published: Saturday 31 March 2007

the Gujarat Lion Conservation Society, an autonomous body for Asiatic Lion conservation, will be registered by March 15, 2007. The society will focus on improving habitat, mobilising resources, developing new areas and funding for conservation, says Pradeep Khanna, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), Gir National Park in Gujarat's Junagadh district. Meanwhile, poachers have killed three lions in Gir.

Gujarat now plans to translocate some lions from Gir--the Asiatic Lion's only habitat--to the Barda Wildlife Sanctuary in Porbandar district. Experts have had doubts about containing an entire population in one area. The new plan has done nothing to assuage them. "Barda isn't very far from Gir, so it does not really give the required isolation during an epidemic," says Ravi Chellam, a lion expert and director, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, an ngo in Bangalore.

In January 1995, the Wildlife Institute of India had recommended shifting few lions to the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. But the Gujarat government did not comply. Conservationists suspect the society's formation is a move to counter pressure from international conservation groups and the centre to share lions with other states. "International funding will be tough, given Gujarat's track record in lion translocations," says Chellam.

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