Don’t introduce lion in same region as cheetah: NTCA
The NTCA has filed an application in the Supreme Court appealing that the expert committee constituted by the apex court in 2020 to oversee introduction of African Cheetahs in India’s Kuno national park be dissolved.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has filed an application in the Supreme Court appealing that the expert committee constituted by the apex court in 2020 to oversee introduction of African Cheetahs in India’s Kuno national park be dissolved.
NTCA has also said it is not appropriate to introduce another larger carnivore, the lion in the same area as the cheetah immediately as this would be detrimental to the survival of both species due to interspecies competition. The application was shared by NTCA’s legal team with other respondents on March 25.
“It is humbly submitted that it is no longer necessary or mandatory for the NTCA to continue to take the guidance or advice of the expert committee appointed by this Hon’ble Court vide order dated January 28, 2020…however if at any stage NTCA requires aid and advice of any experts, the same may be done as and when the need arises,” the application said. HT has reviewed a copy of the application.
The SC on March 13 while hearing an application moved by the expert committee seeking to guide and direct the NTCA on cheetah translocation (as envisaged in the 2020 order) said they did not wish to interfere in Centre’s matter, Live Law reported.
“We have become like micro-administrators,” the green bench of the Supreme Court said at the time, adding “National Tiger Conservation Authority is an expert body that is concerned with the conservation of tigers in India. So, once that body is there, why should we have further supervision?”
In January 2020, the apex court had set up a three-member committee, comprising former director of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), M K Ranjitsinh, the head of the Wildlife Institute of India, and an official from the environment ministry to guide NTCA in taking a decision on the issue of translocation of Cheetahs.
The court did this while also removing a stay )dating back to 2012) on the translocation of the Cheetah in Kuno. Interestingly, that 2012 stay by the court was also on account of Kuno, at the time, being considered a second home for the lions of Gir. The court, while lifting the stay in 2020, did not get into the relocation of the lions at all (experts had recommended this because Gir was becoming crowded, and they were worried that a disease could decimate the entire population).
Still NTCA, which comes under the union environment ministry is taking no chances on that front. “Post mandatory quarantine period, cheetahs have been released into larger enclosures and free ranging conditions and they have started hunting on their own. In order to provide cheetahs, a stress-free environment and successful establishment of the founder populations, it is not appropriate to introduce one more large carnivore species (Lion) in the area immediately as it would be detrimental to the survival chances of both the species owing to inter-species competition. Although cheetahs and lions in African countries are known to coexist together, it is pertinent to mention that competitively subordinate and vulnerable carnivores (Cheetah) should be released prior to the dominant species (Lion),” its application states.
Due to conservation efforts by the Centre and the Gujarat government, the lion population has grown by 29% over the past five years, the application said, adding that there were 674 lions in 2020 as compared to 411 in 2010. “The ultimate goal of Project Lion is to ensure maintaining a viable Asiatic Lion population. The Gir Protected Area population and natural dispersal into a new surrounding area including Barda Wildlife Sanctuary have the potential to achieve this goal,” the application added. On March 15, HT reported the move to develop Barda as a second home for the lions.
“With respect to introduction of African Cheetahs in the Kuno National Park and also steps taken to secure the future of Asiatic Lions beyond Gir National Park, the union environment ministry and NTCA have decided to re-examine entire aspect of translocation of Asiatic Lions from Gir to Kuno from an expert’s perspective. A status report/appropriate application will be filed before this court within six months…” the application said.
A senior official of NTCA did not want to respond to a query on why it wants the expert committee to be dissolved. ”The matter is sub-judice. We will not comment until SC takes a call.”
Ranjitsinh, who heads the SC expert committee on Cheetah, has been working on big cats and other wildlife since the early 70’s.In early March, Y V Jhala, the lead scientist on Project Cheetah who saw the arrival in India of the first lot of eight Cheetahs from Namibia, retired after the union environment ministery terminated his extension (after retirement).