Gujarat: Tests on two Gir cubs rule out viral disease
The Times Of India
AHMEDABAD: The tests conducted on the tissue samples of the carcasses of two lion cubs found in Gujarat's Gir forest have prima facie ruled out any viral disease as the cause behind their death, forest officials said Wednesday.
A total of 14 lions have died in the forest since September 11 and the causes of their death are being ascertained.
The cubs on whom the tests were conducted were among the 11 big cats who were found dead between September 11 and 19. Nine of the carcasses were recovered from Dalkhaniya range and two from the Jashadhar range of Gir forest.
The toll rose to 14 Tuesday, after the death of two lionesses and a cub in the last two days.
As per a release issued by forest department, the tests, conducted through the molecular virology technique at Junagadh-based Veterinary College, indicated no presence of Canine Distemper, a viral disease.
Canine Distemper is a viral disease that affects a wide variety of animals, including wild species. The disease is highly contagious via inhalation.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the death of 14 lions since September 11, seven big cats were captured from the Dalkhania range Tuesday to ascertain their health status, the release stated.
Forest officials found three lions, as many lionesses and a cub from Dalkhania Range Tuesday. "They were captured and shifted to a rescue centre for health check up," said the release.
"All the seven lions appear to be healthy and are kept under observation," said Akshay Saxena, principal chief conservator of forest, Wildlife.
"Since 14 lions have died in this area alone, we want to conduct tests on each lion of this area to find out whether these animals are carrying any disease," he said.
According to officials, of the total 460 lions spotted during the ongoing screening drive in and around the Gir forest, only seven were found with minor injuries while remaining big cats are in good health.
Interestingly, forests officials had claimed that infighting among lions and infection caused by injuries are the causes behind their deaths.
"The seven lions found with minor injuries during our scanning operation were treated on the spot and released in the wild" Saxena said, adding that screening for the remaining areas is still on.
Forest department Sunday said a total of 64 teams comprising 270 personnel had been formed to identify and rescue ailing lions in the Gir forest.
According to a 2015 census, Gir is home to 523 lions, including 109 male, 201 female, 73 sub-adults and 140 cubs.
Gir is the only area in Asia, where Asiatic lions are found, and is considered one of the most important protected areas in Asia due to its supported species.