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Gujarat will have to keep sending its lions to Madhya Pradesh

Times of India, Ahmedabad, 25th April, 2013

AHMEDABAD: The State Board of Wildlife is meeting on Thursday to prepare a strong review petition to be filed in the Supreme Court shortly to oppose the decision earlier this month to shift some Gir lions to Palpur Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.

Studying the decision carefully, the authorities here have realized that this is not a one-time transfer of lions. The SC decision states that the gene pool in MP would be kept healthy by sending fresh male lions from Gujarat every three to five years. The wildlife board and the forest department feel that sending males from Gir to Kuno will disturb the social fabric of the prides.

Their main argument, according to top forest officials, will be that the gene pool of Gir lions has improved and not deteriorated as suggested in the project report for translocation. Gujarat forest officials will quote a study — 'Genetic variation in Asiatic lions and Indian tigers' — jointly conducted by the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad; Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata; and Center for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad.

Quoting the study, Gujarat will try to establish before SC that the lions are healthy and have no genetic disorder at present and are not likely to suffer any kind of such disorder in the next several years to come. Forest officials said that they have several scientific evidences to drive home the fact that the health of the lions is steadily improving. Earlier, the litter size was just one or at the most two, it is now normal to see a litter of two or three or even four cubs.