Four lion cubs brought back from jaws of death
The Times of India
A two-month-long dedicated conservation effort has helped save lives of four of the six lion cubs which had taken ill with a life-threatening bacterial infection soon after birth in Junagadh district.
The case is rare in Asiatic lion conservation for two reasons. First, it was a rare case lioness giving birth to six cubs. And, secondly, four of them survived despite illness. The cubs are all set to be released in the natural forest habitat soon.
Early in June, a lioness had given birth to six cubs in Babra Vidi (grassland) of Mangrol reserve forest. In fact, it was the first time that the officials here spotted six cubs together with a lioness. However, the initial euphoria turned into a serious concern after 24 hours observation when they found one cub was not moving at all. At around 2am, they immediately took its blood sample and found that it was suffering from anaplasmosis, a bacterial infection caused by ticks. Even as they were thinking about the treatment, the lioness threw another challenge by suddenly abandoning this and another cub.
Anaplasmosis is caused by tick bites and affects the blood cells. It can cause severe anaemia and respiratory problems.
Deputy conservator of forest, Junagadh, Dr Sunil Berwal said, "We decided to treat all the cubs close to their mother and not separate them so that their social behaviour doesn't change."
The veterinary doctors found that cubs had become become severely anaemic. "The haemoglobin level of three cubs fell to as low as three while that of three others was five. In order to survive, the level should be at least 12. Doctors said that the condition of two cubs was critical and they died during treatment," said Berwal.
The death of two cubs did not deter the doctors and officials and they carried out a penal postmortem of the carcass that confirmed anaplasmosis as the cause. The blood samples of the cubs were sent to various laboratories for testing and doctor from Sasan, Amrapur Rescue Centre and Junagadh Veterinary College started round-the-clock observation.
Priyvrat Gadhvi, a widlife expert, said, "Usually, the mortality rate of lion cubs is around 60%. This is an extremely rare case of four out of the six lion cubs born to one lioness surviving despite illness."
"When a lioness gives birth to six cubs, some are born weak. We kept all of them in a ring cage and gave them antibiotics," said another forest officer.
Finally, the efforts paid off and the cubs started taking other food and milk. SK Mehta, chief conservator of forests, Junagadh, said, "This is a very rare case of four out of six lion cubs being saved.
Cubs survived on kitten powder milk
According to forest officials, it was difficult for the mother to feed six cubs together as lioness generally gives birth to three cubs out which one or two survive. Sometimes it also happens that other lioness feeds the cubs but there was only one in this grassland. "When the cubs were under treatment, we tried to give them milk of cow, buffalo, goat and camel but they were not having it. Then we thought of giving them milk from kitten powder because it's a favorite among cats. As lions are from the family, it worked," said a senior forest officer.