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State to seek review of Gir lion shifting order



The Pioneer, Ahmedabad, 18th April, 2013

Even as the Gujarat Government is contemplating to file a review petition in the Supreme Court challenging its verdict on shifting of some lions from Gir to Madhya Pradesh, the villagers and pastoral people around the sanctuary have called for a bandh in the area.

The Supreme Court had on Monday ruled that some Asiatic lions from the Gir National Park and sanctuary in Saurashtra, the last natural habitat of this species of big cats, should be translocated to Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh as an epidemic may wipe out their entire population for ever.

The 1,412 square kilometre Gir National Park and sanctuary spread over three districts of Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar is the natural habitat of 411 Asiatic lions at the last count in 2010.

After studying the apex court verdict, which was available here on Tuesday, Government spokesman Finance Minister Nitin Patel said that the Government would exercise all options to prevent the shifting of lions to Madhya Pradesh.

Patel said that the State Government is likely to file a review petition in the apex court in a few days.

Meanwhile, the local people in the Gir National Park, the sanctuary around it and neighbouring villages have vowed not to part with its lions with whom they have lived in harmony since ages.

The pastoral people, cattle-keepers called Maldharis in local language, have called for a bandh in the area to protest against the move to shift the lions to Kuno Palpur.

The spectre of a genetic disease wiping out the Asiatic lion population totally, the logic advanced in seeking the translocation, is only a ploy used by wildlife experts, Maldharis’ leader Karsanji Rabari told The Pioneer from Sasan Gir on Wednesday.

“All the 350 Maldhari families who were shifted out when the core area was notified as National Park are opposed to the move”, said Karsanji of the Sasan Gir Maldhari Seva Samaj.

Describing the Asiatic lions as “Gujarat’s pride” (Gujarat nu shaan), Karsanji said that Madhya Pradesh cannot protect the lions as poaching is rampant there which resulted in depletion of tiger population.

“If they (MP) cannot protect the tigers, how can they protect our lions which would be new in their area”, he asked.