Wildlife experts call for 'life insurance' for lions after Gujarat rains kill at least 11
Mail Online India
The flash floods in June caused by unruly rains in the lion belt of Gujarat claimed the lives of at least 11 Asiatic big cats. Now a survey has begun to find more carcasses.
While more than 1,600 blue bulls and nearly 50 spotted deer have also perished, the spotlight has again turned on the controversy of a section of lions to be shifted to Kuno Palpur sanctuary in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh.
Wildlife experts won a case with the Supreme Court for a section of lions in the Gir forests to be shifted to the forests in Madhya Pradesh, as their space in Gujarat was shrinking.
There have also been several cases of lions becoming victims of human activities.
With 11 deaths in the floods, the number of lions in Gujarat has come down to 511
Even the latest May 2015 lion census in Gir and surrounding areas in Gujarat's Saurashtra region indicated that there are at least 167 lions which have spilled into human territories in Amreli and Bhavnagar districts searching for a new base and hunting area.
There have been frequent accidental cases of lion deaths due to goods trains passing through Amreli, as well as from trucks hitting the animals in Bhavnagar, both of which were not traditionally frequented by the lions but have come to be now.+
The Gujarat government is now complimenting itself for conservation efforts that have led to an increase in the numbers of lions — from 411 in 2010 to 523 now.
With at least the counted official figure, the number has come down to 511, with 11 deaths in the floods while the survey is still ongoing.
Renowned lion and wildlife expert Ravi Chellam told Mail Today: "A natural catastrophe like this which killed so many lions and other wild animals doesn't come with a warning.
"It does not tell you I will strike at 9am tomorrow."
He added: "Like human beings there should be a life insurance for the wild animals for a catastrophe.
"In this case, what was needed was an alternative that works as a life insurance, an alternative living arena for the lion is necessary."
Chellam is the one who fiercely fought in the SC the case to relocate the lions to Madhya Pradesh.
"I have nothing to add than what the SC has already ordered," he said.
The Supreme Court order of April 2013 clearly directed the shifting of some of the lions to the Kuno Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.
"The order is binding on one and all," Chellam told Mail Today by telephone.
The Gujarat government forest officials, on the other hand, said a flood like this has never occurred in this region and this caught them unawares.
By the same argument, they say the flood deaths of lions could not be connected with the issue of relocation.
When asked, Chellam said the official machinery could not be blamed for a catastrophe like this but there should be an "alternative preparedness" and "the SC directive does not leave any space for anyone to debate, which has already happened in the court."
The proposal to shift some of the lions triggered a legal battle which lasted a long time.
Finally, in April 2013, the SC ruled that some of them should be relocated to a sanctuary in a neighbouring state.
A 12-member committee was also formed by the apex court to look into relocation.
A Gujarat policeman with a carcass of a lion in Amreli following the floods