WII suggests Barda as another site for lion translocation
Oct 7, 2014, 04.28 AM IST

Barda Dungar, a lion translocation site within Gujarat, should be an isolated lion habitat, which should not have connection with Gir Sanctuary, suggested experts of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

It was in October 2013 the state government had asked WII scientists and lion expert Y V Jhala and his team to prepare a report over reintroduction of lions in Barda Dungar. The report prepared by WII team of Jhala, Kausik Banerjee, Parabita Basu, Stotra Chakrabarti and Subrata Gayen states: Barda should be a separate free ranging lion population so as to mitigate the threat of a catastrophe on an isolated single population on which debates and discussions are going on since past two decades. In the case of Barda, connectivity with Gir landscape is not desirable and lion population in Barda needs to be managed artificially as a metapopulation, where lion movement between populations is human controlled with appropriate checks for disease so as to avoid epidemic induced catastrophic mortality. This will augment the conservation importance. With this, the long-term viability of lions in Saurashtra landscape is enhanced by adding Barda.

The report further recommends Barda sanctuary should be made free from human habitations to create habitats exclusively available for lions and biodiversity conservation and also restore wild prey population in Barda through continued restocking programme.

The report states that almost 98% Maldharis were ready for resettlement, while only two per cent were happy to stay inside Barda and not willing to move out. Better livelihood options, better amenities and human safety were the primary reasons behind Maldharis' willingness to leave Barda sanctuary.

The report also gives out various possibilities of translocation of lions. It says that the total area of Barda landscape was 410 square km, out of which 374 sq km comprised of larger patches and the rest 36 km with smaller patches. The report states that the larger patches of Barda landscape are likely to hold three lions per 100 sq km, while the smaller patches can hold two lions per 100 sq km. These summed up to an additional lion numbers of 12 adult individuals supported outside Barda.

Barda wait began with Kuno

If Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh has been waiting for lions since 1990's, it is Barda Dungar in Gujarat which has also been waiting for a similar period to hear the roars of the big cats in the wild. Barda was proposed as an alternative site for reintroduction of Asiatic Lions by the Gujarat forest department when Kuno Palpur was being proposed by wildlife biologists in 1990.

However, Barda project never saw the light of the day since early 1990's. It was only after the Supreme Court's April 2013 order directing lions' translocation to Kuno Palpur that the state forest department decided to put the project on fast track. In early 1990's wildlife biologists selected Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) in Madhya Pradesh as a potential reintroduction site. In this light Barda WLS situated in the western part of Saurashtra was selected as an alternative site for reintroduction of Asiatic lions by the Gujarat forest department.