MP govt’s plan to relocate big cats to Gujarat draws flak from wildlife activists

The Madhya Pradesh government has sought New Delhi-based Central Zoo Authority’s (CZA) approval for relocating two rescued tigers and four leopards to the neighbouring state of Gujarat, a move being strongly opposed by the wildlife activists.

As per the officials in Madhya Pradesh wildlife department, the decision has been taken considering the availability of adequate space for rescued animals in the state in future.

The officials said that wildlife department often rescues wild animals from different parts of the state, and since they are not supposed to be released in open forests, they need be kept under close observation.

Rajneesh Singh, a senior official in the wildlife department in Bhopal, said that rescued animals are not put on display at any zoo or national park.

“Decision to send tigers or other rescued wild animals to other places are sometimes taken as per future planning, including to provide adequate space to the animals. It happens when we have wild animals in surplus numbers,” Singh said.

The recused big cats will be handed over to the Greens Zoological Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (GZRRC) located in Jamnagar, Gujarat. Currently, they have been kept at the Maharaja Martand Singh Judeo White Tiger Safari and Zoo in Rewa district.

The decision came after GZRRC in December last year wrote to Madhya Pradesh’s wildlife department and requested for acquisition of rescued wild animals housed in zoological parks, rescue centres, and transit facilities in the state.

Therefore, the department has written to the Central Zoo Authority seeking its approval.

However, when the department initiated the process to send these animals to Jamnagar, wildlife activists in Madhya Pradesh raised questions on this issue.

Bhopal-based wildlife activist Ajay Dube has written to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Central Zoo Authority, and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouan seeking their intervention on the matter.

Dubey has come up with several points as to why the felines should not be relocated.

Talking to IANS, Dube said: “I have not objected the decision but have sought attention on legal grounds. First and foremost, why would MP want to send its tigers and leopards to Gujarat when it already has two rescue centres in the state?

“Secondly, the forest department wrote to the Central Zoo Authority to seek its consent without taking the Chief Minister’s permission. The Chief Minister is the head of the state wildlife board and if the department has already got his approval in the matter, why it has not mentioned it in its letter?”

MP government is planning make tiger safaris in Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pachmarhi by spending crores of rupees. It has been proposed that rescued wild animals will be released in the tiger sarafis. How can the department consider sending these big cats to Gujarat then, Dube asked.

While GZRRC in Jamnagar has sought permission to acquire the rescued big cats from MP, Dubey said that for nearly three decades, there has been nothing positive on the translocation of Gir’s Asiatic Lions to MP, despite a Supreme Court order of 2013 in favour of the state.

He said that MP should rather have been persistent in asking Gujarat to send its lions instead of sending tigers from here.

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