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Prep Before Cheetahs Become Free Ranging In Kuno National Park

  When another male cheetah, Obaan,joined the two rock stars – Freddie and Elton -- in yet another bigger enclosure of Kuno national park on November 18, only five female cheetahs remained in smaller bomas in the park where they were released on September 17. Like the three males, the five female spotted cats will also be released soon in larger bomas to run and chase their prey to kill. India’s  wildlife authorities accompanied by the experts from the cheetah conservation fund (CCF) from Namibia   have been taking utmost care and caution  before the  cheetahs in Kuno are ultimately made “free -ranging” meaning released in open to move around the entire length and breadth of the park. “Free ranging cheetahs and their monitoring  will be like a grand finale of the Project Cheetah to be played in Kuno for a longer  period in the coming years'", said a senior official of the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFC&C).  Apprehensions, Concerns  on Chee

Lion Spillover From Gir National Park Gets Closer To Ahmedabad


Lion Spillover From Gir National Park,

 Gujarat’s lion is knocking at the doors of the capital city of Ahmedabad. As if seeking attention from the politicians and bureaucrats for more space and  a new home, a lion was spotted about 140 kms away from the capital city of Gujarat on Ahmedabad-Dhandhuka-Bhavnagar highway in the third week of February. In the last few years, the lion-spill -over  from Gir National Park and the Asiatic Lion landscape (ALL) has increased.More and more  big cats are now cited near Gujarat cities including Rajkot, Surendra Nagar and Botad districts, causing even traffic jams on some occasions. Over 674 lions were counted in the ALL in the last census. Experts said the number may be more and the landscape is over populated . Alert after the new sighting closer to Ahmedabad, experts feel this is high time when Gujarat reads the writing on the wall.

Is Project Lion proposing Five New Lion  Relocation Sites Shelved?

Lion Spillover From Gir National Park,

Lion relocation has been talked about since 1995, when the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary was identified as an alternate home to the threatened species of the big cat. The motive behind looking  for  more jungles for the species is because the population in Gir has low genetic diversity, making it highly vulnerable to epidemic threats. Scientists cite the example of Canine Distemper , the disease which killed 1,000 East African lions in the Serengeti eco-region .Scientists from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad  have already sequenced the entire genome of the Asiatic lion .It shows that the Gir lions lack genetic diversity in comparison to other lion populations and historical samples of Asiatic lion,  biologists said in the Lion Project proposal. On the other hand  Gujarat has still not carried out the Supreme Court order of 2013 directing the state to relocate lions to the Kuno-Palpur , now a national park. The six new sites for relocation in the future include  Madhav National Park, Madhya Pradesh, Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan ,Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan ,Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh ,Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan Jessore-Balaram Ambaji wildlife sanctuary and adjoining landscape, Gujarat.

Also readProblem Of Plenty: Gir Lions Turn Scavengers As Deadly Virus Stares 

All the new sites belong to the historic lion territory when its roar used to echo from Palamu ( Jharkhand) to Persia. Though the Project Lion was announced in October 2020, the centre seems to have shelved it . This  proposal seeks to create free-ranging lion populations within Gujarat and in other states to counter this problem. Currently, the only free-ranging population of about 674 Asiatic lions exists in the ALL that is spread over 30,000 square kilometers.

Also readFate of Lion project unknown midst Cheetah translocation in Kuno

 Former senior IFS officer of Gujarat ,HS Singh, who has studied Gir lions extensively has been quoted in Gujarat’s media saying, “I have been observing it (lion dispersal) for 15 years. Earlier when population was less, only a few were surviving in Girnar. But now, the population is spilling everywhere. Now, the Girnar population is more than 30 or 50. So, they move from Girnar to Gondal grasslands and villages in search of food,” Singh said adding the lion population ranging freely in Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts of Gujarat’s Saurashtra region is around 700 and about 55 % of those lions have settled out of protected forests.

Gujarat’s NO to Madhya Pradesh

Lion Spillover From Gir National Park,

This is not the first time that experts have recommended shifting of lions to new sites . A workshop on the Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA) of Asiatic lions in 1993 “favoured” the scientific management of reintroduction of Asiatic lions to another site. One of the five sites suggested was Kuno Palpur. A report after the workshop recommended alternative habitat for the Asiatic lion with “all possible speed  without compromise of the accepted strategies and scientific reintroduction”. The sites were selected by WII  scientists headed by Dr Ravi Chellam.

Also read: Cheetahs' Flight to India Delayed

But in 2004 Gujarat refused to part with the first pride of 19 animals planned for relocation. The state considers the lions as "heritage of the state" and the issue of handing over lions has now been politicized. Mangubhai Patel, then state forest m Minister who is now the governor of Madhya Pradesh , went on record to state that “There is no need to shift lions from Gir. We will ensure their survival here”. As early as 2009, the continued opposition of the Gujarat state government led to the Madhya Pradesh forest department's exploration of the possibility of procuring zoo-bred Asiatic lions and shifting them and their descendants to Palpur-Kuno. Since then Kuno continues to wait for lions. The Centre and Madhya Pradesh government have already spent over 125 crore from 1995 till 2007 for relocating 24 human settlements from Kuno-Palpur and for other habitat management interventions.

Asiatic Lions at Risk in Gujarat                  

Lion Spillover From Gir National Park,

Over 700 lions died in Gujarat’s Asiatic Lion landscape (ALL) from 2013 to 2020.They include deaths due to drowning in wells. Of the 413 lions that perished between 2013 and 2018, 132 were females, 119 males and 154 cubs. The highest number of deaths, 98, was recorded in 2016-17, Gujarat government data tabled in the state assembly in July 2019 revealed. Of 413 lion deaths during the five-year period, 35 % or 146 adult lions, and 45 %, or 69 of 154 cubs, also died of illnesses. While the number of deaths among cubs seems unusually high, forest officers denied it, saying survival rates among cubs are generally low. Additionally, 70-odd lions died due to unnatural causes such as falling into open wells, being run over by trains or being electrocuted on agricultural farms. Of them, 20 big cats died after falling into wells, and four were run over by trains. In 46 deaths, the cause was recorded as “other unnatural reasons,” the  assembly reply stated. In September 2018, 23 lions died within just two weeks in Dalkhaniya range of Gir (east) forest division in Amreli district.

Also readA Decade of  Forest Cover Decline in India

 Laboratory tests confirmed that 18 of them died after contracting the deadly canine distemper virus (CDV) and bacterial infections such as Babesiosis and Gram-negative Bacilli. Consequently, the forest department rescued 33 lions and shifted them to animal care centres, and 21 tested positive for CDV.   Apart from disease, 44 lions also died of old age, and 153 lions died due to unspecified “other natural reasons” as well. In 2019 and 2020, a total of 313 lions died in Gujarat, with 23 fatalities due to unnatural causes, state Forest Minister Ganpat Vasava told the state Assembly in March 2021. The unnatural causes included dying after falling into an open well, getting run over by vehicles or trains, or electrocution, he had said. The government was making efforts to mitigate lion deaths due to unnatural causes, the minister had said.

Powerful Gujarat needs to Show Political Will to Find an Answer

Lion Spillover From Gir National Park,

So what is the way out? Are lion populations in isolated pockets of Gujarat viable? What is their future? As majority of them are sustaining on lifting cattle, the man animal conflict may also rise. Over 18,900 cattle have been killed by both lions and leopards in Gir-Somnath, Junagadh and Amreli in the past five years. Between October 2013 to September 2018, the highest number of cattle deaths were reported from Gir Somnath (7,371), Junagadh (7,206) and Amreli (4,349),Indian Express reported in July 2019.

Also read: Bhopal's Urban Tigers Need Tiger Reserve Not Chain-Links Mr Chief Minister  

It’s a problem of plenty and Gujarat needs to find out an answer? Now the most powerful state politically, their leaders need to show a political will and do justice with the king of the jungle scavenging  in many parts of Gujarat. Experts say reintroduction of lions to new homes is the only way out. As Gujarat was also involved in drafting the Project Lion, the new homes suggested by the project needs to be explored. There is almost no conservation value of lions spilling over ALL and  translocation of the animal to new homes would definitely enhance the  forest conservation of the new homes mentioned in the Project.


  1. Unfortunately the lions fate is decided by those people who does not have any scientific knowledge. They have reached daman and diu.
    Hopefully one day they themselves will find the land for them.


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