UNABLE TO get lions from Gujarat despite an order from the Supreme Court, the Madhya Pradesh Wildlife Board on Tuesday recommended release of tigers in the Kuno Palpur sanctuary created to provide an alternate home to the Asiatic lion.
The translocation project was conceived in the 1990s at the instance of the Wildlife Institute of India. The Gujarat government raised several objections and after a protracted legal battle, the apex court in 2013 ruled that some lions be shifted from Gir in Gujarat.
In 2014, the apex court threw out a curative petition, the last legal recourse available before Gujarat to stall the translocation. More than three years later, the order is yet to be followed, with the Gujarat government coming out with one reason or the other to scuttle the translocation.
When the state wildlife board meet began on Tuesday, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan recommended that tigers be shifted from other areas because the 700-odd sq km sanctuary has remained unutilised.
Additional chief secretary (forest) Deepak Khandekar told The Indian Express that a male tiger has already been spotted at Kuno Palpur and efforts will be made to release a tigress. He said the board’s recommendation, taken at the instance of the chief minister, was independent of the efforts to translocate lions from Gujarat. Asiatic lions are found only in Gir.
Wildlife activist Ajay Dubey, who has filed a contempt petition in the apex court citing undue delay in compliance, said the state wildlife board’s decision amounted to contempt. The apex court had on November 14 issued notices to the Gujarat government and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Accusing Chief Minister Chouhan of betrayal, Dubey said he would move the court again to make the MP government a party in the contempt petition. The activist alleged that the BJP government in the state deliberately climbed down to allow the party-ruled government in Gujarat and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to score brownie points ahead of the assembly elections. The MP wildlife board’s recommendation will create an impression that Gujarat has won the battle and scuttled translocation to protect its USP, he said.