Gujarat’s pride lions may find a new home in Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s native district of Etawah.
The Uttar Pradesh government has got approval from the Central Zoo Authority to set up a lion safari in 50 acres of forestland, just five kms away from Etawah town, and wants the big cats of Gir lineage, the only Asiatic lions in wild in India.
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi had earlier refused to relocate lions from their only home in the wild in India --- Gir National Park --- to Kuno in Madhya Pradesh on the ground that he will not part with Gujarati pride.
Uttar Pradesh, however, might not face similar fate as it has decided to get lions of Gir lineage from zoos, instead of wild as insisted by BJP ruled Madhya Pradesh government. The Central Zoo Authority can instruct the zoo officials to relocate animals from one zoo to another, if its finds the new facility to be suitable for the job.
A senior UP government official said a couple of lions each having established Gir descendants were been sought from Rajkot and Hyderabad zoos. “Asiatic lions are most beautiful and charming with whom people identify themselves,” the official said, adding that lions from two different zoos would be bought to maintain genetic diversity to prevent any chances of inbreeding.
The UP government would be building an animal breeding center, two animal houses to keep the lions during night hours and a vetnary hostpial in the safari to be surrounded by a green buffer zone in 300 hectares. A motorable road will allow people to watch the lions in a big enclosure.
Yadav had promised lion safari costing Rs. 5.6 crore in Etawah when he was state Chief Minister but the project was dumped after his defeat in 2007 assembly elections to BSP’s Mayawati.
Yadav’s pet project was revived by his son Akhilesh Yadav, now UP chief minister, and a group of senior Indian Forest Service officials have been given the job to ensure that Etawah have lions by next year. “We have most of the approvals,” the official said.