Reintroduction of Gaurs in Sri Lanka

The Indian Government is considering Sri Lanka’s proposal to translocate Indian bison to the island nation, where the gavaras have become extinct several centuries ago.

Key facts

  • The Sri Lankan government has requested India to transfer Indian bisons to the island nation to revive its population.
  • If the Indian Government agrees to this proposal, this will be the first of its kind agreement between India and Sri Lanka.
  • It is in line with the global trend of wildlife or zoological diplomacy.
  • Sri Lanka has asked for the transfer of at least 6 Indian bisons, which will be bred in captive situation for five years before being released into the wild.
  • The reintroduction will take place based on the internationally mandated guidelines.
  • Its long-term success depends on the elimination of conditions that caused the extinction of gaurs.

About Indian bison

Indian bison or gaur is known as gavara in Sinhala. It was once widespread in the Sri Lanka but became extinct by the end of the 17th century. However, gavara still remains popular in iconography and mythological fables in Sri Lanka. The Indian gaur is the largest wild bovine in the world. The Indian Gaur is listed as “vulnerable” in the IUCN Red List and protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. There are an estimated 13,000 to 30,000 gaurs in the world. Of these, 85 per cent are in India. The population is also concentrated in Myanmar and Thailand.

What is zoological diplomacy?

Zoological diplomacy is practiced by countries across the world. It is different from loaning or gifting the animals. Rather, it involves translocation and reintroduction of species between countries. It takes place especially among neighbouring countries. For instance, the American bison herds were supplemented with animals from Canada after almost all herds in the US were lost. South Africa has been exporting cheetahs to other African countries as a diplomatic tool after the end of Apartheid era. Recently, Cambodia has requested translocation of tigers from India.

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