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Share the lions, top Indian court tells two provinces

A file photo of Asiatic lions lounging in the shade in the Gir National Park in Gujarat, India. (AFP photo)

Share the endangered lions: that is the message India’s highest court had for two squabbling provinces earlier this week.

The Asiatic lions are an endangered species and have almost been wiped out in the sub-continent but conservation efforts have saved them in Gujarat, a western province in India.

There are about 400 lions in Gujarat’s forests.

There are reportedly almost no big cats in Madhya Pradesh, a neighbouring province; they are believed to have been killed by poachers or driven away from their habitat by human encroachment.

Gujarat had opposed Madhya Pradesh’s appeal for lions, pointing to its poor record on protecting its own wildlife in national parks.

But India’s supreme court ruled against it, saying the two neighbours had to share. The court, relying on expert opinion, said the lions should have a second home to stop them being eliminated by an epidemic or a fire.

Environmentalists have also said that the move will make the lions less vulnerable to diseases, establish a new community and eventually help reduce inbreeding.

Exactly how many big cats will move to a new forest home is not clear yet.

The move will happen within the next six months.

Gujarat has increased its population of Asiatic lions from about 50 to 400 through breeding programs.

Raveena Aulakh is the Star's environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh


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