ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Lion in Gujarat

The Lion in Gujarat

The Supreme Court judgment marks a welcome move away from anthropocentrism.

In a landmark judgment last month, the Supreme Court has restated what should be obvious – that species belong to the planet and not to any particular political territory. It is unfortunate that this issue needs to be addressed at all given the internationally accepted norm that the earth’s biodiversity must be preserved for the long-term survival of the planet. The various strategies evolved to do this, including identifying endangered species of both flora and fauna, are premised on the belief that the extinction of an endangered species in one country will adversely affect the overall welfare of the planet. Thus conservation and preservation efforts must necessarily not be constrained by borders. Yet, in India, the state of Gujarat seems to have decided to swim against the tide by declaring the endangered Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica) as its own, a “family member” for which it claims exclusive responsibility. This was its argument before the Supreme Court over the question of finding a second home for the Asiatic Lion, which is now found only in the Gir forest in Gujarat.

The Asiatic Lion is one of several endangered species in India that include the Snow Leopard, the Great Indian Bustard, the Kashmir Stag, the Gangetic Dolphin, the Bengal Florican, the Dugong and the Malabar Civet. It has been placed on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) of critically endangered species. The fact that these lions exist only in the Gir sanctuary and some nearby areas makes them especially vulnerable as a natural calamity or an outbreak of an epidemic could wipe out the entire species. Recognising this danger, plans were put in place to relocate some lions to another, similar environment. Discussions began in the 1990s and initially three locations were identified – two in Rajasthan and one in Madhya Pradesh (MP). Finally, after detailed studies by scientists and wildlife experts who looked at climatic conditions, vegetation as well as the availability of an adequate supply of wild ungulates, it was decided that the Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in MP’s Morena district was best suited for this translocation.

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