Wounded pride of Gujarat: Defeat in fight to prevent relocation of Asiatic lions

Indian Supreme Court rules other populations should be established in neighbouring states

A A A

For generations the authorities in the Indian state of Gujarat have ferociously guarded their prized Asiatic lions – a rare and treasured animal that features in the national emblem.

Having set in process a breeding programme that saw the lions’ population rise from just 50 to more than 400, the state’s political leaders have repeatedly clashed with those demanding that some of the animals be relocated to other parts of India.

But this week, the Supreme Court of India sided with the experts who said it was better for the future of the lions if other populations were established. As a result, some of the animals will be moved to the neighbouring state of Madhya Pradesh within the next six months.

“We are of the view that the… Asiatic lions should have a second home to save them from extinction due to catastrophes like epidemic and large forest fires,” the court said.

The opposition to moving some of the lions from the Gir forest to an alternative location was led by Gujarat’s powerful Chief Minister, Narendra Modi. Four years ago, Mr Modi had a public clash with the then Environment Minister, saying that unlike other Indian states where wildlife such as the tiger was struggling, his state had managed to protect its large cats. “Lions are the pride of Gujarat,” he said. The domain of the Asiatic lion – which is smaller than its African cousin – once reached from Greece to the north-east of India but it was repeatedly pushed back by hunting and habitat destruction. Today, around 60,000 visitors a year visit the lions in the Gir forest.

A breeding population of the lions will now be transferred to the Kuno game sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. According to the Associated Press, state representatives said a proper environment for the animals had been created in Kuno. Precisely how many animals are to be moved is yet to be decided. Environmentalists have welcomed the move, saying the forest in Gir is getting crowded and making the animals more vulnerable to disease. They claim that establishing a new community can help reduce inbreeding. “This has been going on for 20 years,” said Belinda Wright, of the Wildlife Protection Society of India. “From a solid conservation point of view, it’s not a good idea to have an entire population of a species in one area.”

Sheren Shrestha, of the Wildlife Trust of India, said it was true that the authorities in Gujarat had done well in establishing the breeding programme that had been so successful. “They are saying they have been doing a good job and that is true but the fact of the matter is that you need more than one population,” he said.

While on this issue the court ruled in favour of the state of Madhya Pradesh, which says it has spent large sums to establish a place for the lions, it rejected a plan by the Minister of the Environment to proceed with a plan to reintroduce cheetahs.

At the turn of the 20th century, there may have been as many as 1,000 Asiatic cheetahs in India, where they were known as hunting leopards. But the last tiny population of the sub-species is confined to Iran’s Kavir desert. It is commonly said that the last three cheetahs in India were shot dead by the Maharaja of Surguja, the ruler of a princely state in the east of Madhya Pradesh. Campaigners behind the plan to introduce cheetahs from Africa, say that unlike the Indian and African elephants, there is little difference between the Asiatic and African cheetahs.

News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
Man taking selfie in front of car
health
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Manager - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web-based lead generation ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore