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Lion translocation: NGOs cite 10 failures in the past!

Smitha R, DNA   |  Jun 25, 2013, 06:17AM IST
Ahmedabad: The issue of translocation of Asiatic Lions from Gir sanctuary to Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno-Palpur has hit another wall — this time that of an NGO. The social organisation opposes the move on various grounds, including the fact that most of earlier translocation attempts carried out in Independent India ended in failures, often endangering the animal itself.
 
The NGO’s analysis of the arguments, on which the translocation of lions was finally allowed, shows that several factors relating to shifting the big cat was either not considered or ignored while allowing for the translocation.
 
NGO, Empower Foundation’s analysis titled, ‘Failure of the proposed lion translocation to Kuno Palpur, Madhya Pradesh’ also found that the government has not rightly and strongly positioned the fact that the lion habitat in Gujarat goes much beyond Gir.
 
The analysis argues that there is no history of any major successful translocation in India. The study mentions 10 case of failed translocations covering elephants, gaurs, leopards, rhinos, African and Asiatic Lions (from Gir to Chandraprabha Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh in 1956), which show only 16% success rate in a study of 119 cases of translocated animals. In the rest of the cases, the animals returned causing major conflicts, dying or being killed by locals due to severe man-animal conflicts. Mehta said that even in case of captured leopards, they were released in areas similar to their earlier homes, but it was observed that the animals found their way to their original habitat.
 
Jalpesh Mehta and his team who carried out the analysis opine that the argument regarding an epidemic killing the entire populace of lion does not hold true as the lions are not concentrated in Gir alone, but have dispersed far and wide.“If an epidemic can kill all the lions, the same thing can happen to all the tigers in the MP-Rajasthan-Maharashtra belt and Karnataka-Kerala-Tamil Nadu belt as the distance in these areas is more or less similar to that between Gir and other areas where the lions are spread,” said Mehta.
 
The analysis also talks of the stress suffered by animals during capture and transfer to new locations apart from citing various cases of failed translocations particularly those concerning carnivores. It also mentions other problems associated with releasing an animal into a new location including predation, starvation and movement away from the actual release site. 
 
“There was some success in translocation of rhinos in Assam. But then the one-horned rhinos are herbivores,” Mehta explained.
 
Apart from the above points the analysis has also made references to MP’s high incidence of poaching and Kuno-Palpur’s drought-prone status. 
 
The NGO has already sent a copy of the analysis to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and the state forest department too.
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