Bhopal: Four lions reached Madhya Pradesh’s Van Vihar National Park in Bhopal on Friday from Assam. The four big cats, including two males and two females, were brought to Bhopal by a team of nine officials in a special vehicle from Assam after travelling for nearly 75 hours. The lions were kept in the cages of Van Vihar National Park’s wildlife rescue centre.
Dr Atul Gupta , veterinary doctor at the Park, who along with eight other officials had gone to Guwahati , told HT that these tigers were in a zoo there. “There were no proper facilities there for taking care of these lions. They are also suffering from various ailments need medical attention, which we can provide them here. They will be now permanently here”, he said
This new addition has brought cheer to officials at Van Vihar National Park, which lost two lions last year. In July last year, India’s perhaps oldest lion in captivity-28 year old Ramu-died died in Van Vihar, followed by death of another elderly lion a month later. Van Vihar National Park has now seven lions, with the latest addition.
According to wildlife experts, lions in wild live up to 16 to 18 years as they mostly die in injuries following their territorial fights. But when a lion is put in captivity, they generally live long, over 20 years. One of five big cat species found in India, Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) is found in wild in Gujarat only, elsewhere they are in captivity.
MP has been trying to get lions from Gujarat. The much delayed reintroduction of Asiatic Lion to MP’s Kuno-Palpur wildlife sanctuary from Gujarat is yet to happen. Even the expert committee on translocation of lions to MP has recommended it as ideally suited for second home for lions, but Gujarat government wants that before the translocation, all the 36 studies, which have mandated under the new translocation guidelines of the IUCN issued in 2013, should be conducted to check whether Kuno was suitable for translocation or not. These studies concern issues like habitat status, prey base, vegetation cover, weather and so on.
As Asiatic lions exist only in Gir sanctuary, experts have often expressed apprehensions that high rate of inbreeding and less genetic diversity could make them susceptible to epidemics and make them extinct. In 1993, WII conducted a study to identify the best area for translocation of lions and they found Kuno-Palpur in Sheopur district, nearly 140 kms from Gwalior, most suitable. In this light, a proposal was mooted to translocate a few of the Gir lions to MP in 2000. Wildlife activist Fayaz Khudsar filed a public interest petition in the apex court in 2006 and sought translocation of Gir lions to MP. In April 2013, the apex court in a judgment directed that the lions be translocated to Kuno-Palpur in MP.