With the lion safari and breeding centre gradually taking shape in about 300 hectares of Fisher forest in Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh, purebred lions, unlike their counterparts in Gir and Junagadh, are set to be introduced in the forest. This lion safari project is the first to introduce purebred variety of the animal and has been revived by the Akhilesh Yadav government with a Rs. 5 crore budget. It was in the cold storage for five years.

“ About seven to eight pure bred lions, not the ones crossbred with African lions, will be introduced when the safari and the breeding centre gets going,” said Rupak De, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest and Chief Wildlife Warden of Uttar Pradesh told The Hindu. Mr. De said the forest area would also serve as a satellite centre for the lion population in India. “The safari becomes active only when we have surplus animals,” he said.

Though a beginning has been made with the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav taking a keen interest in the project, it will take about three to four years before the lions lord over the area. “Lot of legalities are involved, which includes getting clearances from the government of India; structures like lion houses have to be created and no violation of Forest Conservation Act and Wildlife (Protection) Act has also to be ensured,” Mr. De said.

Good native plants species will be introduced to make the Fisher forest area lion-friendly.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests shot off a letter on July 1 to the State government objecting to the felling of babool trees, a common variety found in the forested area of Etawah district, as it violated the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. Sources in the State government said a reply would be sent soon to the Ministry.

The sources said grass seeds were sowed in a small area cleared of babool trees to note the response.

The project was conceptualised in 2005 when Mulayam Singh was the Chief Minister. After he lost power to Mayawati in 2007, the project was almost shelved.

The project is being redesigned keeping in mind the conditions laid down by the Central Zoo Authority and the Wildlife (Protection) Act.