Friday, October 16, 2009

Sasan Gir National Park Asiatic Lions Wildlife Sanctuary News Gujarat India

Gujarat zoo refuses lion exchange- Asiatic Lion Re-introduction Project spurs numbers supremacy game.

Tata Steel Zoological Society’s bid to procure Asiatic lions has hit a hurdle, thanks to the proposed Lion Re-introduction Project in Madhya Pradesh.

The Sakkarbaug Zoo in Junagadh City (Gujarat) has turned down Tata Zoo’s request for a pair of Asiatic lions on exchange basis. There are about 80 such lions in the Gujarat zoo, all rescued from Gir Wildlife Sanctuary.

Sources said that the war of attrition between Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh governments prevented Sakkarbaug zoo authorities from giving away surplus Asiatic lions to their counterparts, including the one at Jamshedpur.

The problem began with the Asiatic Lion Re-introduction Project proposed at Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.

The project is an effort to save the last Asiatic lions from extinction. The lion population in Gir forests is under threat from epidemics, natural and man-made disasters. The project is aimed at establishing a second independent population of Asiatic lions at the Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary.

Sakkarbaug authorities are reluctant to let go of lions as it wants to retain its monopoly over the tourism revenue generated by the endangered species.

The Union ministry of environment and forests has intervened to resolve the issue between the Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh governments. But things have failed to make any headway.

An official of the Sakkarbaug Zoo said: “We are not giving away the lions at present. There’s an instruction from the state government.”

“I spoke to the authorities at Junagadh zoo recently but they have expressed helplessness in providing us with a pair of Asiatic lions. They have told us to wait for at least a year,” Tata Zoo director Bipul Chakravarty told The Telegraph.

“There are at present about 380 lions in Gir and 80 in the zoo,” he said, adding that zoos are permitted to keep 15 lions.

According to Chakravarty, they require Asiatic lions as the Central Zoo Authority has banned breeding of hybrid ones. The zoo here presently has a pair of hybrid lions.

Tata Zoo authorities are concerned with the receding population of big cats, especially lions and tigers, due to the deaths of a lion and a tiger recently. Moreover, one of the two female tigers has lost its breeding capacity.

The zoo is experiencing problems in breeding the young female tiger due to the absence of its male counterpart. Authorities have requested their counterparts in Guwahati to provide a male tiger in exchange for emus.

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