Telangana agrees to transfer two pair of lions to SGNP

The Maharashtra Forest Department, which has been reprimanded by Gujarat and Karnataka for the last three years for the transfer of Asiatic lions from Gir and Bannerghatta National Parks, has now received a positive response from Telangana to increase the lion population in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. SGNP) at Borivali, Mumbai.

The Telangana Forest Department has agreed to exchange two pairs of lions with breeding pairs of wild-spotted cats from SGNP from Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad. Under existing rules, animals have to be exchanged between zoos. The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) regulates the exchange of animals of the endangered category listed under Schedule I and II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 between zoos.

The park in Telangana has 15 lions including two African cubs born in April 2020. “We have got a positive response from Telangana. We are now looking for rusty spotted cats that can be replaced,” said Sunil Limaye, principal conservator of wildlife (wildlife).

Endemic to India, Sri Lanka and areas along the Indo-Nepal border, the wild-spotted cats are the world’s smallest wild cat species protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Since 2013, SGNP has launched its captive breeding program to increase captive population numbers of near-threatened rusty-spotted cats, including in closed facilities, with the intention of breeding the animals in restricted conditions outside their natural environment. did. However, captive breeding has been unsuccessful. There are now three rusty-spotted cats in the park—a female, 11, and a male and female sibling, each one year old.

At present, there are three lions in the SGNP, one male Ravindra (18). Its brothers and sisters are Jespa and Gopa, who are both 10 years old. All three are hybrid lions – a cross between an Asian and an African. His parents were brought to the park from an abandoned circus. Since breeding of wild cats is not permitted by the Central Zoo Authority, the SGNP has requested the Telangana Forest Department to breed lion pairs.

The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) does not allow breeding of feral cats and has also directed states to ensure that breeding of hybrid lions is phased out.
Officials said the park needs at least two pairs of lions to have a healthy population. With the increase in lion population, SGNP plans to resume lion safaris spread over 12 hectares in the park.

The relocation of lions from other states was planned earlier as well, but it remained a non-starter. In July 2018, the then Karnataka Forest Minister R Shankar had visited the SGNP to see the facilities and also discussed the possible exchange of lions and rusty-spotted cats from Bannerghatta National Park and Mysore Zoo. However, the plan never worked out.

In August last year, the then Maharashtra Forest Minister Sanjay Rathod had urged Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to request Gujarat and the Center to expedite the process of shifting at least one lion pair to the SGNP.

The city’s Byculla zoo has also requested a pair of lions from Gir National Park. Officials said that since Gir National Park has the largest population of lions, it receives many requests from zoos and parks in the country.