After no response from Gujarat, Maharashtra approaches Telangana for two pairs of lions
The Hyderabad-based park has 15 lions, including two African cubs born in AprilUpdated: Sep 18, 2020, 09:29 IST
Maharashtra forest department, which has been rebuffed by Gujarat for the past three years for the transfer of Asiatic Lions from its Gir National Park, has decided to turn to other states such as Telangana to increase the lion population at Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) in Borivli, Mumbai.
The department will send a proposal to the Telangana forest department next week requesting the authorities concerned for two pairs of lions to be sent to SGNP from Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad.
The Hyderabad-based park has 15 lions, including two African cubs born in April.
Forest officials said Telangana authorities have given a positive response and asked for a proposal.
“I have spoken to the Telangana principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF). Lions can be brought from Hyderabad. They have asked for a proposal. SGNP authorities were asked to submit their requirements. We will be sending our proposal to the Telangana officials by next week,” said Nitin Kakodkar, PCCF (wildlife), Maharashtra.
G Mallikarjuna, conservator of forests, SGNP, said they sent the proposal to the PCCF’s office in Nagpur on Wednesday.
“The public can enjoy the lion safari more if the animal’s population in the park can be increased. Perhaps, an in-house breeding programme will help increase the lion’s population,” said Sunil Limaye, additional principal chief conservator of forest (APCCF) (wildlife-west).
At present, SGNP is home to three lions — a male, Ravindra (17); its brother and sister Jespa and Gopa, who are both nine years old.
Forest officers said all three hybrid lions -- a cross between Asiatic and African -- and their parents were brought to the park from abandoned circuses.
The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) does not allow inbreeding of wild cats and has also directed states to ensure that breeding of hybrid lions was phased out. “In such circumstances, the park needs at least two pairs of lions to have a healthy population,” said Mallikarjuna.
In August, Maharashtra minister for forest Sanjay Rathod had submitted a proposal to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray to request Gujarat and the Centre to expedite the process of transferring at least one lion to SGNP, preferably a female. “We are still pursuing the case with the Gujarat authorities, but they have not responded positively so far,” said Kakodkar.
Though transfer of lions from other states was planned earlier, it proved to be a non-starter, In July 2018, then Karnataka forest minister R Shankar had visited SGNP to view facilities and also discussed the possible exchange of lions and rusty spotted cats from Bannerghatta National Park and Mysore Zoo. Shankar had then told HT they had agreed for the transfer but subsequently when a final proposal was sent, Karnataka rejected it as SGNP did not have required animals to offer in an exchange programme.
Limaye said SGNP authorities had also requested Kakodkar that sub-adult tigers from Chandrapur district, which is prone to human-animal conflict and accounts for 56% of Maharashtra’s tiger population, be sent to the national park in Mumbai.
“This could help us improve our tiger population. Nagpur’s Gorewada Rescue Centre has reached its capacity and releasing these big cats at other sanctuaries may not be a safe option. They can be rehabilitated at SGNP. The PCCF has agreed to our proposal,” he said.
SGNP is home to five Royal Bengal tigers, including four females, who are aged between eight and 10 years and are called Mastani, Bijlee and Laxmi. The other tigress Basanti is 20 years old. Sultan (4) is the lone male tiger.
“The tigresses are dominant and steer clear of Sultan or don’t allow it to come close to them. As a result, translocation of sub-adult big cats is essential for the park and the future of safaris,” said a forest official requesting anonymity.