Our journey towards conserving the only Asiatic Lions in the world began a few years back when we got associated with the Gir National Park in Gujarat. But the real action began, when we took a very different stand by opposing translocation of Lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh, a decade old political battle in India.
Empower Foundation submitted an Eco-centric reportÂ on the subject not opposing translocation in general, but to Madhya Pradesh, the poaching capital of the country, where the lives of lions could be at risk. 12 serious adversities at the proposed location of Kuno Palpur Sanctuary in Sheopur district, the Gun capital of Madhya Pradesh and hub of Chambal dacoits were highlighted. The Report opposing manual translocation of Lions supported by the Analysis of 10 Failed Translocations internationally and Animal Stress issues created strong pressure on the forces seeking translocation for tourism purpose under the mask of conservation.
The government of Madhya Pradesh’s website declaring Sheopur as a drought-prone area and district affected by natural calamity, and presence of tigers and bears living in Kuno-Palpur which would lead to in-fighting and territorial wars with Lions, if shifted, were highlighted for the first time in the study, which stated “MP being unsuitable for the Big Cats”
Countering the argument of concentration risk and the report positioned the fact that the lion habitat in Gujarat, over the years, had grown much beyond 1412 sq km Gir forests to 10500 sq km Southern Saurastra Region, where lions have naturally migrated to places like Amreli, Savarkundla, Liliya Porbandar, Paniya, Mitiyala, Barda, Una, Chhara, Sutrapada, Babariya, Kodinar, Visavadar, Hipavadli, Jamvada, Jasadhar, Girnar, Bhavnagar and Palitana. Popular magazine, India Today also pointed out Gujarat Government not positioning this fact strongly.
Lion Issue goes International
Post creating a furore in India by opposing the Lion translocation to M.P. on the occassion of World Lions Day (August 10, 2013)the NGO took the Asiatic Lion issue international by escalating the issue to Dr. Frederick Launey, Chairperson, IUCN, SSC Reintroduction Specialist Group. International Union for Conservation of Nature, a Switzerland based worldâ€™s oldest and largest global environmental organization’s Species Survival Commission (SSC) is responsible to come out with various guidelines, including IUCN Guidelines for Reintroductions and Other Conservation Translocations, which the NGO analysed with reference to the proposed Lion translocation in India and concluded 29 Serious Violations of IUCN Guidelines covering areas like Core Reason, Habitat, Climatic requirements, Animal Welfare, Social Feasibility, Regulatory Compliance, Risk Assessment, Exit Strategy etc.
The letter also marked to Ms. Maneka Gandhi, Chairperson -People For Animals & Member of Parliament, Govt. of India highlighted the Serious Animal Right Issue on the Supreme court approved proposal of translocating a pride of Lions to Kuno and every 3 to 5 years moving the Male Lion from the Wild to captivity in Zoo and by replacing a new Wild Male Lion from Gir.
The escalation also requested IUCN for appointing Lion Experts on the issue as India had no history of successful translocation (2 translocations, in 1904 and 1956 failed). The report also stated about the mockery of the system, where the the Petitioner / Appealing party for translocation ie. Interested party is a part of the Deciding or Recommending and advising body on the issue.
Leading India Media like The Times of India, Hindustan Times, DNA, The Mid-Day, The India Today, The Sunday Guardian etc covered the fight of Empower Foundation against the translocation.
Lion Translocation to be stayed : 4 Serious issues flagged off !
Post the Hon’ble Supreme Court passed an order to translocate Lions to MP on April 15, 2013, aÂ 12 Member Expert Panel, headed by the Addl. Director General (Wildlife), Ministry of Environmental Affairs was formed with eminent members like Member Secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority, Scientists like Dr. YV Jhala of WII, Dr. Ravi Chellam, Senior Experts like M.K. Ranjitsingh, P.R. Sinha and Chief Wildlife Wardens of Gujarat and M.P.
Empower Foundation sensitized the Expert Panel and stay the translocation, citing 4 Serious Issues in the proposed Lion Translocation from Gujarat to M.P.Â as below :
(1) Preybase Issue in Kuno-Palpur SanctuaryÂ â€“
(a)Â Despite of repeated Preybase surveys in 2004, 2006 and 2008,Â which were challenged, in the latest Survey in 2012, suddenly 2 new categories of Species were added, viz. Langurs and Peafowls, (not exactly preferred prey for Lions), thus increasing the preybase dramatically by 17.2 and 6.44 individuals per sq km. which calls for justification.
(b)Â Also drastic increase in the Preybase in the range of ~600-1000% !!! (Details on Pg 3-4 of the Letter) calls to understand basis what conservation activities these fantastic numbers were achieved or shown and why no correspondent increase in number of Tigers !
(c)Â The SC Judgement shows a huge self contradiction with the appointed expert and panel member and a respected Scientist who has confirmed that the preybase is inadequate (Section 56, Pg 60-61) which is a big contradiction and a serious issue.
(2) 29 Serious Violations of the IUCN GuidelinesÂ - Post studying the Guidelines for Reintroductions and Other Conservation Translocations, especially the July 2013, 29 serious violations covering areas like Core Reason, Habitat, Climatic requirements, Animal Welfare, Social Feasibility, Regulatory Compliance, Risk Assessment, Exit Strategy etc are evident. The same are captured in the Annexure 2. This could be the highest possible violation by any country on account of translocation and could bring India on a leading violator list at international levels. Hon’ble SC has ordered compliance to each of the IUCN guidelines but these violations will ultimately stay the translocation.
(3) 12 Adverse Conditions in proposed translocation siteÂ - Annexure 3 sites a list of adverse conditions of the translocation site (Kuno Palpur) which could be fatal to the Lions There are no Control Measures thought of by the panel and these adversities right from Habitat, Poaching Issue (MP contributing to 50% of worlds tiger poaching) and co-existence of Tigers and Lions which will be a big challenge.
(4) Serious Animal Right IssueÂ - The SC Judgment dt April 15, 2013 confirms translocation of a pride of Lions to Kuno and every 3 to 5 years moving the Male Lion from the Wild to captivity in Zoo and by replacing a new Wild Male Lion from Gir. This was a sheer violation of Wildlife rights and a grave concern.
The above escalation would enlighten and help the honorable panel decide upon the proposed translocation keeping in mind the conservation and interests of the Lions.
Our fight for Lion continues…….