Clash of prides left 11 lions dead in Gir, says Gujarat govt
The Times Of India
GANDHINAGAR: The deaths of 11 lions and lionesses in just eight days was the grim but natural outcome of a bloody battle between two groups of lions for pride of place in Gir, top Gujarat forest department officials claimed on Friday.
The officials were careful to emphasise that the deaths of the endangered big cats were all of natural causes brought on by injuries sustained in a fight over territory between the two prides or by starvation because they were hiding. Six cubs, three lionesses and two lions were found dead in Dalkhaniya forest range of Gir (east) division between September 12 and September 19.
As murmurs of deliberate poisoning or an unidentified disease grew louder, the head of Gujarat's forest force, G K Sinha, told the media at a hurriedly called press conference on Friday that post-mortem reports showed infighting and subsequent starvation in three cases — one lion and two lionesses — had resulted in lung and liver failure, and death.
The lion and two lionesses were hiding to save themselves from attacks during infighting, he said. "The death of 11 lions in infighting is something unusual, but preliminary reports clearly suggest that this was the sole cause of the casualties," Sinha, principal chief conservator of forests, claimed.
However, Sinha's version is being taken with some scepticism within the forest department, especially regarding the lioness deaths. "Lionesses don't have any role in infighting and maintain a safe distance," said another top official in the department.