Saturday, August 03, 2013

Lions in Gir clear virus scan

Lions in Gir clear virus scan
The Times of India

The results of the study carried out by the forest department for detection of possible presence of dangerous viruses have brought in much relief to the department. The study which was primarily carried out in 10 lions revealed that there is no presence of Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) and Pestes Des Petits Ruminants Virus (PPR).

This was carried out post an alarm raised by Dr Richard Kock of Britain's Royal Veterinary College who was quoted as saying, "The lions in India are a small vulnerable population and widespread infection caused by such a virus can kill at least 40% of the lions in Gir." Dr Kock stated that he planned to visit India in September to conduct tests with the help of Wildlife Institute of India ( WII).

The bogey of a deadly virus that wiped out a significant number of wild lions in the African Serengeti in mid-1990s was raised again in May this year, ostensibly to support the proposal of transfer of Asiatic lions from its only home in Gujarat to a new hostile habitat in Madhya Pradesh.

TOI has found that the study, which was completed in 2012, was based on a sample taken from a lion carcass in 2006.

Gujarat Forest Department entrusted the job of screening the Asiatic lions for these viruses to Gujarat State Bio-Technology Mission (GSBTM) working under the department of science and technology, Government of Gujarat.

GSBTM report on Thursday revealed that both viruses - CDV and PPR - were absent in the tissue samples of all the 10 Asiatic lions. The tests were conducted on six males and four females. Out of these 10, seven were from the wild and three were from captivity. The animal tissue samples were collected as opportunistic collection from lions, thus the sampling was quite random.

Chief wildlife warden, Gujarat, C N Pandey said, "This investigation report further confirmed the incorrectness of the May 16 report. The state forest department is not only sensitive and vigilant about the issue, but has also acquired capabilities of high-end scientific investigations with the help of GSBTM, that will go a long way in the scientific management of lions in the state."

Senior officials from the forest department said that they are not taking the matter lightly and are fully aware that Madhya Pradesh will raise this issue in the apex court and even before the 12-member committee formed by the ministry of forest and environment over translocation. "Hence, the state wanted to be ready with the test report so that it could be produced in court whenever required. The state government is also aware that the neighbouring state will try to show as if every lion in Gir was suffering from PPR and each lion death was caused by the virus," an official said.

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