Asiatic lions to find a new home at Kuno National Park-is it a good move?


Anuja Pradhan

India’s Supreme Court recently green lit a project to relocate a few Asian lions from Gir National Park in Gujarat to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh within six months. The move is aimed at giving the endangered population of Asiatic lions a better chance at survival and species growth in terms of numbers. The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) called for the move as it feels that catastrophes like forest fires, epidemics, etc could lead to the extinction of the entire species as it presently has only one natural home at Gir.

We interviewed our expert-naturalist, Sarath Champti, on the pros on cons of this important decision. Here’s what he had to say:

What are the pros of this move?
S.C: There are two basic pros, the first is that it basically distributes the single lion population we have to a second habitat, where it is insured against the chances of any epidemic wiping away the population. The second pro is that since the Gir population is going well in numbers, a second home is badly needed as they need more space.

What are the cons, if any, of this move? Will the lions be able to adapt to their new home? 
S.C: In my opinion, there aren’t many cons. I feel that the lions will adapt quite quickly, especially since prey species are in good density at Kuno.

Will introducing a new predator into the ecosystem at Kuno have an adverse effect on the other wildlife at the park?
S.C: No, if at all it will be temporary. Kuno has been a historic habitat for lions so it is not really new. Also, for open habitat prey species like nilgai (a type of Asian antelope) and chinkara (Indian gazelle) at Kuno, there are currently no large predators present.

In your view, are there any other endangered/vulnerable species in India that could benefit from similar relocation programs?

S.C: Yes, there are quite a few- 1. The barasingha (swamp deer) whose single habitat is Kanha National Park. 2. The Indian rhinoceros has only a few natural habitats like Manas and Kaziranga National Parks. 3. The brow-antlered deer that can only be found in the wild at Loktak Lake, Manipur. 4. The hangul (Kashmir deer) whose only natural habitat is Dachigam National Park.

So, if implemented properly, the relocation of Asiatic lions to Kuno could be a good move for the species’ survival. And hopefully, its success can set a precedent for similar relocation programmes for other endangered species in India.

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If you’re interested in seeing the Asiatic lion with us on a tour to Gir National Park, check this tour out: Royals of the Jungle