Lion death toll reaches 21 in Gir Sanctuary
The death toll of lions due to infighting, respiratory infection and protozoan infection spread by ticks has reached 21. Earlier, 14 lions were reported dead by forest officials.
On Monday, the forest officials said a total of 21 lions died in the Gir Sanctuary between September 12 and 30. Out of these 11lions died between September 12 and 19 while 10 lions died during treatment since September 20, after they were rescued by sighting teams. In all 31lions of the Semerdi group have been shifted to the rescue centre to be kept under observation. As a precautionary measure, certain medicines and vaccines are being imported from the USA.
"We have heaved a sigh of relief as after this massive drive, we have ascertained that all the deaths were isolated in a small area of 25 sq km out of total Gir area of 3,000 sq km area. Moreover, 31 lions of the nearby Semerdi group have been transferred to Jamvala Rescue Centre. We will keep them under observation till we ascertain that it is safe to release them back in the wilderness. We have ruled out over-population as the cause of these deaths, but we will be taking view of experts before coming to any conclusion," said Chief Conservator of Forest, Junagadh Wildlife Circle, D T Vasavada.
The forest department launched a massive drive, after 11lions were found dead in Gir sanctuary's Sarasia range. Out those 11deaths, carcass of seven lions were found in the forest areas while four lions died during treatment. Another 10 lions which were rescued from Dalkhania range and taken to Dasarda died during treatment, taking the toll to 21.
The samples collected have been sent to National Institute of Virology, Pune, Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Bareli, UP, Veterinary College Junagadh, and Forensic Science Laboratory, Junagadh, to do a detailed analysis of the cause for the death of lions is such a large number. The blood samples as well as tissue samples of all rescued or injured lions sent to Pune, showed traces of Protozoan virus, spread by ticks. "The infection is limited to lions in the Sarasia (Roneo) forest area. No such virus has till now been reported in the 31 lions we have kept under observation," said Vasavada. Kidney and liver functions examination of the lions have also been carried out.
On the request of the state government, three experts from Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Bareli, five experts from Delhi Zoo and two experts from Lion Safari Park, Itawa in UP, have reached Gir and will be conferring with the forest department officials.