India’s first experiment to transfer caged lions to wild, termed as a bad idea by wildlife experts, would be discussed by the National Board for Wildlife headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The environment ministry has proposed that lions from three zoos across India should be relocated to Kuno Palpur wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh after Gujarat told the Supreme Court in 2009 that it will not part with the lions in Gir Wildlife Sanctuary.
The 345-sq km sanctuary was originally developed at a cost of Rs 26 crore to house 60 wild lions from Gir as a second home outside Saurashtra, the only lion wildlife sanctuary in India, to prevent their extinction because of natural calamities or disease.
After fighting to get the lions for over 10 years, the ministry has now sought approval of the board to get them from zoos in Delhi, Bhopal and Hyderabad.
“It is a bad idea,” said a board member, who has worked in wildlife sanctuaries as a government official for over 30 years.
“Caged lions don’t like wild areas. They are familiar with humans and would walk into villages leading to man animal conflict.”
Experts also feel that survival of captive-bred animals in the wild is difficult.
“They don’t have the capability to kill the prey to survive and face difficulty in breeding,” said a scientist with Wildlife Institute of India.
The environment ministry, however, believes that the experiment can succeed if lions cubs are trained properly and attuned to living in forests. The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has approved the plan jointly prepared by MP government and the ministry.
In the first batch, Kuno Palpur would get four lions, including a pair from Hyderabad, a male from Bhopal and a female from Delhi. They would be kept in a breeding centre and only third generation lions will be released in the wild.
The Board is also expected to discuss the declining population of tigers with National Tiger Conservation Authority expected to make a presentation on its status.