Mainly found in Junagadh, Amreli, Gir Somnath and Bhavnagar districts of Gujarat, the lions can now be spotted in at least four other districts. Researchers believe that an approach that considers human development alongside lion conservation is essential. Photo by Strota Chakrabarti.

Standing orders for plans to relocate the lions

Another problem of having lions in a human-dominated landscape is their close interaction with feral dogs and cats. “A Canine Distemper outbreak killed over 20 lions in 2018. Feral dogs act as reservoirs for this virus and can have deadly consequences, in epidemic proportions, if the disease spreads among wild carnivores like lions. Feral dog and cat populations need to be kept in check/vaccinated to thwart disease spillovers,” says Chakrabarti.

An epidemic or natural calamity could potentially wipe out the endangered species, which is why Chellam worked on the translocation project for the lions since the 1990s. It’s another thing that the plan to move some of the lions to Kuno Palpur wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh is unable to cross bureaucratic walls. There is a standing order by the Supreme Court dated April 15, 2013 saying the translocation be completed in six months.

Jhala’s stance on relocation and conservation is slightly different, “The only secure area for lions is Gir PA. There, only 250 sq km is exclusively for wilderness and lions (the national park). We have people and livestock sharing space with lions in the remaining 1,200 sq km of the Gir sanctuary. So, in the entire world, there is only 250 sq km for Asiatic lions! Kuno, on the other hand, has freed 700 sq km of people and livestock for lions to be reintroduced there.

“The higher the lion populations in national parks and larger the parks, the safer the lions will be. If Gujarat doesn’t want to give lions to MP, they should create a 1,000 sq km national park in Gir for lions. And introduce a lion population in Barda after resettlement of all villages from inside Barda wildlife sanctuary,” he added.

Chellam is of the opinion that India tends to separate people from wildlife. “Let’s assume that’s an acceptable strategy. You can do it within a PA. How will you do it outside? Are you going to throw everyone out?” Now, those who were thrown out of PAs, in the name of conservation, are wondering why the animals are also out with them. “You can’t separate our legal framework from conservation efforts. That recognition has to come. Conservation has to be humane and just. It cannot undermine the dignity and constitutional rights of large sections of our society.”

Cubs playing at a temple in Savarkundla, Amreli district. Photo by Stotra Chakrabarti.

Read more: Kuno, India’s second home for the Asiatic lion, is ready


Banner image: A pair of lions laze in a groundnut field. Photo by Stotra Chakrabarti.

Article published by Aditi Tandon
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