Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Apr 19, 2022, 6:05

The Asiatic lion is an endangered species included in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

The Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project is an Indian Government initiative to protect Asiatic lions by means of reintroducing them. This project is also known as the lion project in India.

What is the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project?

The Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project is an Indian government project to protect Asiatic lions by relocating them to various parts of India through reintroduction. The government took this initiative to minimise the threat to the existing population of the endangered Asiatic lions by reintroducing them to other forests.

Presently, Asiatic lions are only found in Gujarat's Gir National Park. Since they are confined to only one place in India, they are prone to floods, epidemics, droughts, etc. If such negative events become a reality, the Asiatic lion species may become totally extinct.

What is the History of the Conservation of Asiatic Lions?

In yesteryear, Asiatic lions were found in vast swathes of Western and Southern Asia. However, due to rampant poaching and ecological changes, Asiatic lions were confined to Gujarat's Gir National Park.

The idea of the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project came after the Indian Wildlife Board recommended designating Uttar Pradesh's Chakia forest as the Asiatic lions' second home. Accordingly, one lion and two lionesses were captured from Gir National Park and placed in Junagadh's Sakkarbaug Zoo before being relocated to Chandra Prabha Sanctuary close to Varanasi in 1957.

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Although the lions were alive for some time, they eventually died. Their unfortunate demise is attributed to the following causes:

  1. Inadequate ranging area
  2. Improper monitoring
  3. Limited grazing activity
  4. Human-lion encounters
  5. Inactivity during their stay at Junagadh Zoo.

Origin of Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project

The Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project was a brainchild of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII). In 1990, they proposed the creation and establishment of another wild population of Asiatic lions to conserve and protect the primary population of these lions at Gir.

With this proposal in mind, the government conducted various assessments to find good habitats. The main concerns were prey availability and ranging area.

After carefully reviewing WII data, the Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA) prepared a report in 1993 on viable sites for the reintroduction of Asiatic lions. The following locations were identified :

  • Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Sita Mata Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Darrah - Jawahar Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Barda Wildlife Sanctuary

After much deliberations, the authorities picked Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary as an ideal habitat for reintroducing Asiatic lions. The other sites were brushed aside for having inadequate prey, unstable terrain, and human presence.

The Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project framework was designed on 10th March 2004. The government created a Monitoring Committee to ensure the seamless implementation of the lion project in India.

The Monitoring Committee decided to implement the project in three phases - Phase 1 (1195-2000), Phase 2 (2000-2005), and Phase 3 (2005-2015). The Madhya Pradesh government identified a 345 square kilometre area in the Kuno-Palpur area and declared it a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1981.

The lion project in India has been on hold since 2004 because of the Gujarat government's vehement opposition to part with the lions. Although the Supreme Court intervened and passed a judgment favouring Madhya Pradesh, the Gujarat government hasn't agreed to execute the Court orders. Instead, it has now been decided that the Kuno-Palpur Sanctuary will be declared as India's first Cheetah Sanctuary.

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FAQ on Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project

Q.1) What is the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project?

Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project is an Indian government project to protect Asiatic lions by relocating them to various parts of India through reintroduction.

Q.2) What is the need for the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project?

The Indian government launched the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project to minimise the threat to the existing population of the endangered Asiatic lions by reintroducing them to other forests.

Q.3) Who invented the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project?

The Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project was a brainchild of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

Q.4) When was the framework for the lion project in India designed?

The framework for the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project was designed on 10th March 2004.