Death of another lioness in Gujarat's Gir forest brings toll to 14; seven injured lions rescued
Gandhinagar: The Gujarat Forest Department on Wednesday recovered one more carcass of a lioness from the Gir forests, the only abode of the Asiatic Lion, taking the total death toll of the beast to 14 in as many days, even as seven more lions were rescued.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) AK Saxena said a lioness was found dead on Wednesday in the Dalkhania range of the sanctuary. The forest department also received the molecular virology report of the samples collected from two lion cubs found earlier, from the Junagadh Veterinary College.
"The samples ruled out the possibility of Canine Distemper (CD) infection in the cubs," Saxena stated in a press release. According to the press release, the forest department screened 1,740 square km of the Gir protected area and adjoining areas. It found 460 lions, out of which seven hurt lions have been rescued.
The forest officials also rescued three lions and lionesses each and a cub from the Dalkhania and Jasadhar ranges from where the 14 deaths were reported and placed them in Sarasia Virdi of the protected area.
"All the rescued seven lions are in good health now. They are under observation and they will be analyzed for their health", states the release. The forest officials have also rescued a lion with superficial wounds found in the revenue area of Bhavnagar and brought to the rescue centre.
Alarmed by the climbing death toll of the big cats, the Gujarat Forest Department has set up 64 teams to screen the vast forest area of Gir to identify sick and weak lions and move them to rescue centres.
Meanwhile, a Central government team of wildlife experts also flew in to Gujarat to find out the reasons for the sudden deaths in such a short span. As many as 11 carcasses of lions were found from the protected Gir sanctuary between September 11 and 19, of which two carcasses were found from the Jasadhar range while the rest in Dalkhania range.
According to the claims of Gujarat forest officials, the lions were killed in territorial war and infighting. Later, the officials added that besides infighting, some of the big cats died due to infection.
Gujarat's Additional Chief Secretary for Environment and Forests Rajiv Gupta said viscera samples of the dead animals have been sent to Pune-based National Institute of Virology.
Once the institute's report arrives, further course of action would be decided, he said, and added that 64 teams comprising more than 270 personnel had been deployed in the forests. According to the latest census in 2015, the Gir forest region has 523 lions, 109 of which were male and 201 female, besides 140 cubs and 73 sub-adults.
There were 411 beasts in the 2010 survey and 359 in the 2005 census. The state government has, in a written reply in the state assembly, has accepted the instances of unnatural deaths of lions in Gujarat. According to the figures provided, during the last two years, 184 lions have died in Gir, of which 32 were unnatural deaths.