33 ailing lions packed into rescue facility meant for 10
The Times Of India
AHMEDABAD: After 23 lions of a single pride fell prey to the deadly canine distemper virus (CDV) and bebesiosis combine, all eyes are now on the recovery of the 36 lions which have been put up in two rescue centres in Gir Somnath district, amid concerns of overcrowding the facilities and further spread of the disease.
Thirty-one lions from Sarasiya Virdi, which lived in close proximity to the ill-fated pride in Dalkhania range, and one each from Visavadar and Dhari, have been put up at the Jasadhar centre in Gir (east) division. The facility is reportedly equipped to house only 5-10 lions.
However, D T Vasavada, chief conservator of forests of Junagadh range, assured: "There is no concern of overcrowding. All 33 lions have are housed well and are under close observation."
Three lions of the 26-member pride, which saw 23 of its members drop dead to infection in 20 days, have been kept at the rescue centre at Jamvala in Junagadh district.
In a bid to thwart the further spread of CDV, vaccination of the 36 lions has been started on a priority basis. CDV vaccines imported from the US reached Gir on Saturday. The government ordered 500 more vaccines.
Top sources in the forest department told TOI that nearly most of the lions are lying listless and lethargic. "They are eating significantly less than other lions. They are under close observation," a source overseeing the treatment told TOI.
Officials said that blood tests carried out locally "are OK" but reports of samples taken from eyes, mouth, nose and anus of the lions sent to NIV are awaited.
Lion reports are awaited
Even as the NIV reports on CDV and other viral infection tests of these 36 lions are awaited, we have begun vaccination in batches," said Rajiv Gupta, additional chief secretary (forest and environment).
After the first dose, vaccine booster doses will be given again after three weeks, 42 days, six months and a year to the lions. Gupta said if the NIV reports are negative, release of these lions in the wild will be considered on a "case-to-case basis".