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Wildlife bill gives tiger lion's share of protection

Aug 13, 2013

The new Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill-2013 saw a massive provision to save the tiger, but had hardly any for the lions of India which are also facing a dire fate.

Lion may be king in popular imagination; but when it comes to conservation policy, it is the tiger that rules the roost—this despite the fact there are just 411 Asiatic Lions in the country against 1,800.

Take the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill-2013 that was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on August 5, for example. It proposes exclusive provisions for the conservation of tigers, but little for the king of the jungle, which has been dumped into the list of 'other wildlife.'

Since the amendments to the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 are targeted at curbing the growing trade in animal parts in international markets, sidelining the lion may prove costly, say experts. The amendment bill is based on the recommendations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The bill proposes more stringent laws but the Centre has once again failed to put lions on par with tigers in the country. Officials said that in 2007, when there was stringent checking at tiger reserves, the poachers turned towards Gujarat and killed eight lions. It was established during investigation that the lion bones were sold as tiger bones in the international market.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists both the Asiatic lion and the Indian tiger in the same category -- endangered species. While Gujarat is the only home of the lion - this limits the spread of its gene pool - the tiger is found in 17 states of the country.

Additional chief conservator of forests and lion expert H S Singh says, "The priority of the Centre is the tiger. Lions are never given equal weightage. There is need for the same provisions for lions and tigers. The Centre has not done much for the conservation of lions; even the funds granted are not adequate. The global success of lion conservation cannot be attributed in the slightest to the Centre."

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