New Delhi, April 15: The Supreme Court on Monday allowed trans-location of Asiatic lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh, saying the species is under threat of extinction and needs a second home.
A bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and C K Prasad has given six months time to the wildlife authorities concerned for trans-locating the lions.
Currently, there are around 400 Asiatic lions in Gujarat's Gir sanctuary.
The bench, however, said the introduction of African cheetahs in India from Namibia cannot be allowed, saying preservation of critically endangered native species, like the wild buffalo and the Great Indian Bustard, should be given primacy.
Under its Rs 300 crore Cheetah Reintroduction Programme, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had proposed the introduction of the African Cheetahs in the country. The apex court, however, in May last year had stayed the implementation of the project.
The issue of relocating cheetahs from Namibia was raised before the court during a hearing on trans-location of Asiatic lions from Gir National Park and Sanctuary and surrounding areas to Palpur Kuno Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, pursuant to a decision taken by theNational Board for Wildlife (NBW).
The Gujarat government has been fighting a legal battle in the apex court against trans-location of lions in the wake of a PIL seeking their trans-location to Madhya Pradesh.
Madhya Pradesh had last year sought translocation of lions to Kuno Palpur sanctuary, claiming it has all the wherewithal to ensure harmonious environment to the threatened species.
Gujarat had opposed the plea of Madhya Pradesh, saying lions would not be safe there as the central state had failed to preserve its own tiger population in the Panna reserve forest.
The Asiatic lion, also known as Indian Lion currently exists as a single subpopulation, and is thus vulnerable to extinction from unpredictable events, such as an epidemic or large forest fire. There are indications of poaching incidents in recent years. There are reports that organised gangs have switched attention from tigers to these lions. There have also been a number of drowning incidents after lions fell into wells.