Supreme Court gives Madhya Pradesh lions' share from Gujarat's Gir

FpA view of the Indian Supreme Court building is seen in New Delhi. Reuters

The Supreme Court on Monday ordered translocation of Asiatic lions from Gujarat's Gir forest to Kuno Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh to provide a "second home" for the endangered species.

Reminding the Gujarat government that no state can claim ownership over its wildlife, a bench led by Justice K S Radhakrishnan said: "Our top priority is to protect Asiatic lions and to provide a second home. MoEF's decision for re-introduction of Asiatic lions from Gir to Kuno is of utmost importance and it cannot be delayed." It asked the authorities to complete the task in six months.

Calling for an "eco-centric" approach where the best interest of the Asiatic lions must be kept in mind, the court underlined that the species currently exists as a single sub-population in Gir, and is hence vulnerable to extinction.

"We, as human beings, have a duty to prevent the species from going extinct and have to advocate for effective species protection regimes," said the bench, adding that experts were united in their opinion that Asiatic lions must have a second home outside Gujarat.

According to a 2010 census, Gir has a total of 411 lions, including 97 males, 162 females and 152 cubs.

In 1986, the Centre had decided to translocate some Asiatic lions from Gir to Kuno so that the species would not be wiped out by an epidemic or natural calamity. But the Gujarat government had opposed the decision, contending that its effective conservation programme had resulted in an increase in the lions' population.

The bench, however, quashed the MoEF's decision to introduce African cheetahs in Kuno, noting that no detailed study had been conducted on the issue.

It also highlighted the necessity for an exclusive parliamentary legislation for preservation and protection of endangered species.

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