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Chhattisgarh High Court stays translocation of 4 buffaloes from Assam to Tiger Reserve in Raipur till further orders

The Chhattisgarh High Court has directed that until further orders the translocation of four Buffaloes from Assam to Udanti-Sitanadi, Tiger Reserve, Raipur shall not be carried out for the reason if subsequently it is found the gene pool is disturbed by breeding it cannot be restored back and may lead to amalgamation of species.

The Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Goutam Bhaduri and Justice N.K. Chandravanshi heard a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed alleging that Buffaloes from the Assam are translocated to Sitanadi it would lead to disturb the genetic purity of the wildlife species.

The Counsel for the petitioner submitted that as per the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad Vs. Union of India and others {(2012) 3 SCC 277} WildLife Institute of India was given the space to opine and it was observed that the genetic purity of the wildlife species at Central India which is Udanti-Sitanadi Forest are required to be maintained.

It is stated that Buffaloes from the Assam are translocated to Sitanadi it would lead to disturb the genetic purity of the wildlife species i.e. wild Buffaloes with specific genetic species which are found in Central India and would be extinct with cross breeding. It is further submitted that the wild Buffaloes which are sought to be translocated from Manas National Tiger Park, Assam which comes under the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) under sub-section (2) of Section 38-O of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 (hereinafter referred to as the Act, 1972) is empowered to give direction and minutes would show that translocation of five female wild buffaloes is approved in principle subject to consent of Government of Assam and ecological suitability of animals in area. It is stated that the consent of Government of Assam and ecological suitability report is not on record, which is placed under information on the RTI.

It is further submitted that Wildlife Institute of India (W I I) by its report submitted to the State has observed that translocation of the wild Buffaloes may lead to mixing of two Gene pools and Central Indian Wild Water Buffalo Gene pool is believed to be the purest in the world. Therefore, the translocation of 4 Buffaloes from Assam to Chhattisgarh may lead to disturb of gene pool and such damage cannot be undone when breeding takes place.

Per contra, State counsel , contended that on 19/03/2023 a letter was written by Udanti Sitandi Tiger Reserve Gariaband (C.G.) to the Director, Wildlife Institute of India, Chandrabani, Dehradun to provide DNA report along with genetic mapping and other hematological parameter analysis and Biochemical Parameter Analysis and they are waiting for the report, but at the same time, as per the instructions, the State counsel though submits that the consent of State of Assam has been accorded. However, such consent of State of Assam is not on record as of now.

The document which is filed by the petitioner refers to a Wildlife Institute of India (W I I) report, reading of which, prima facie, shows that to bring the female Buffaloes from protected areas of Assam to Barnawapara Wildlife Sanctury may lead to mixing of two gene pool.

The Supreme Court in the case of T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad (supra) also has taken note of the fact the Asiatic Wild Buffalo is reported to be the most impressive and magnificent animal in the world and the genetic purity of the wild species are required to be maintained. It also records that Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary of which the issue emanates and the direction was given to ensure the survival of the endangered wild buffalo. At para 29 of this judgment, the Supreme Court observed as under:-

“29. We are, therefore, inclined to dispose of this application with the direction to the State of Chhattisgarh to give effect fully to the Centrally Sponsored Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats Scheme, 2009, so as to save wild buffalo from extinction. The State also would take immediate steps to ensure that interbreeding between wild and domestic buffaloes does not take place and genetic purity of the wild species is maintained. The State is also directed to take immediate steps to undertake intensive research and monitor the wild buffalo population in Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary and other areas, where the wild buffalo may still be found, including preparing their genetic profile for future reference.”

Therefore, at this stage, subject to the further reports which have been sought for by the State Counsel by its letter dated 19/03/2023, the High Court is of the view that if under haste the wild Buffaloes are translocated from Assam, it may lead to disturbance of the gene pool, subject to just exception.

“Consequently, as of now it is directed that until further orders the translocation of four Buffaloes from Assam to Udanti-Sitanadi, Tiger Reserve, Raipur shall not be carried out for the reason if subsequently it is found the gene pool is disturbed by breeding it cannot be restored back and may lead to amalgamation of species. List it in the month of April, 2023”, the order reads.

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