The Centre has decided to conduct a study on whether lions from Gir Wildlife Sanctuary can be relocated to another spot in the state’s Dang district.
Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh told a meeting of the National Tiger Conservation Authority on Tuesday: “I think the Gujarat government will not have a problem in relocating Asiatic Lions to another place within the state.”
Earlier, Gujarat refused to help relocate lions to other states, arguing that the lions were one of the main tourist attractions of the state, as only Gir in the country has Asiatic lions.
They are, according to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, Gujarat asmita (Gujarat’s pride).
A senior ministry official, not willing to be quoted, as he was not authorised to speak to media, said, “Once that (the study) is done, we will ask Gujarat to relocate lions to MP.”
The experiment in Dang — which had lions till 1850s — will arm the ministry with data to convince the state that lions can be relocated also to Kuno Palpur Sanctuary in Sheopur district of Madhya Pradesh.
The two relocation proposals are part of the soon-to-be-launched Rs 200-crore Project Lion for conservation and protection of Asiatic Lions in Gir. The state government submitted the proposal to the Centre about six months ago.
The only rider is that the state will get the funds only if it signs a tripartite agreement with the Central government allowing the relocation.
Gujarat Principal Secretary, Environment and Forests, S.K. Nanda told HT: “The Centre cannot use the sanction of the Gir modernisation project as a carrot to make us part with our lions.”
He said, “The Gir proposal is completely independent of the relocation proposal. The project is part of our efforts to make the Gir sanctuary a vantage point for tourism in the state.”
The sanctuary, spread over 1,400 sq km in Saurashtra districts of Amreli and Junagadh has over 350 lions, according to a 2007 Gujarat census.