The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the translocation of Asiatic lions from Gujarat’s Gir forest to the Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, saying that a second home for the endangered species is required for its long-term survival and to protect the species from extinction.
A bench comprising Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Chandramauli Kr Prasad said its order has to be carried out in letter and spirit within six months.
The bench said the number of Asiatic lions that would be moved to the sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh would depend on the density of prey base and other factors, which will be determined by a committee comprising Ministry of Environment and Forest’s (MoEF) officials, chief wildlife wardens of the two states and experts.
Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Radhakrishnan said, “The MoEF’s decision for re-introduction of Asiatic lions from Gir to Kuno is of utmost importance to preserve the species.
“We are also inclined to highlight the necessity of an exclusive Parliamentary legislation for the preservation and protection of endangered species,” Justice Radhakrishnan added.
“We are of the view that the various decisions taken by the National Board for Wildlife that the Asiatic lions should have a second home to save it from extinction due to catastrophes like epidemic, large forest fires, etc, which could result in their extinction, is justified,” the bench said.
The bench, however, quashed the order of the MoEF to introduce African cheetahs into Kuno. “At this stage... the decision taken by the MoEF for introduction of African cheetahs first to Kuno and then the Asiatic lion is arbitrary, illegal and violation of the statutory requirements under the Wildlife Protection Act,” the bench said.
It also directed the government and the MoEF to identify all endangered flora and fauna, study their needs and survey their environs and habitats to establish the current level of security and the nature of threats.
Currently there are about 400 Asiatic lions in the Gir forest.