Cheetah has virtually up-smarted lion in the central Indian landscape.
The Gujarat government has refused to relocate lions from Gir National Park in Saurashtra region to Kuno Palpur National Park in Madhya Pradesh on the ground that lions will kill cheetahs.
The environment ministry had recently allowed Madhya Pradesh government to translocate nine cheetahs from Namibia in a phased manner for release in wild in Kuno Palpur. About Rs 50 crore will be spent to implement this project.
The decision came handy for Gujarat government in the Supreme Court which used a ministry’s report that cheetahs will face threat from lions. A technical report of Wildlife Institute of India and Wildlife Trust of India had suggested that lions should be relocated only after cheetahs have established themselves in Kuno.
Similar argument was repeated in the court by Gujarat government counsel, who wanted suspension of any plan to relocate lions to Kuno for safety of cheetahs, who were found in India till 1960s.
Narendra Modi led Gujarat government had been refusing parting with lions for years saying they cannot part with pride of Gujarat. Now, the cheetah project has given them any tool to deny lions to Madhya Pradesh, which had originally developed Kuno for lion relocation.
“Kuno was a designated home for Asiatic lions,” said Fayaz Khudsar, who had filed the petition in the Supreme Court seeking relocation of India’s national animal. “Bringing cheetah to Kuno will be huge setback for lions, a project of great scientific significance”.
The need to relocate lions was felt because of probability of losing country’s only lion population due to inbreeding or any calamity. As on summer of 2010, there were 411 asiatic lions in the 1,412 square kilometres of Gir National Park.
Both the Central and Madhya Pradesh government had backed the project. Despite BJP being in power in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh for around eight years, relocation of lions has not taken place.