Relocating lions, cautiously

Published: Sunday 31 July 1994

-- Rajasthan's forest department warns that the Union ministry of environment and forest's (MEF) proposal to translocate Asiatic lions from the Gir sanctuary in Gujarat to habitats in Rajasthan, will increase the pressure on the state's sanctuaries. In August 1993, MEF had proposed the introduction of the animals at the Darrah, Sitamata, Kumbhalgarh sanctuaries and the Desert National Park.

A project study for the translocation is being prepared by Ravi Chellam and A J T Singh of the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, and will be presented to MEF in August this year for approval. At an international workshop held in Vadodara in October, the experts pointed out that the surviving 251 lions in the 150,000 ha Gir sanctuary face the risk of extinction, largely because they are concentrated at a single site. It has long been felt that the lions should be translocated from Gir, the paper said. However, it added that the alternate habitat must be of at least 50,000 ha with an adequate prey base and should not contain livestock or human habitation.

Wildlife expert Fateh Singh Rathore, however, recommends a thorough survey of these factors before the partial translocation is undertaken and considers the Sitamata sanctuary in Udaipur district as the most suitable.

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