'Reduced habitat may have caused Gir lion deaths'
GANDHINAGAR Need for a larger habitat has emerged as one of the likely reasons that resulted in the deaths of 11lions in the past 9 days in Gir East.
Experts and activists emphasised on adetailed investigation of the deaths after the Gujarat forest department released a report that did not present the entire picture. Of the 11 lion deaths reported in the past 9 days, cause of three deaths is unknown, three died of respiratory failure and three due to infighting.
Post mortem report of two lions found dead on Tuesday is yet to be completed.
A wildlife activist based in Amreli has in a letter to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani expressed fear that the deaths might have been caused due to a viral infection. However, forest officials rule out the possibility of viral infections.
As per forest department statement, 11lions died in the past nine days. Two female and one male adult lions died of respiratory failure, while three cubs died due to injuries sustained during infighting. However, the department has been unable to identify one lion whether it was male or female, same is the case of a cub. Post mortem report for two lions is awaited.
Ruling out the possibility of viral infection, Additional Chief Secretary (forest and environment) Rajiv Kumar Gupta told Mirror, "We have mentioned causes of death in our report that we have released to the media. There is no possibility of viral infection, the respiratory failure may have happened due to hunger. If lion is starved for long, that may cause respiratory failure."
Claiming it a rare phenomenon, H S Singh, member of National Board of Wildlife told Mirror, "It is rare that lion dies of hunger. The respiratory failure may have happened if it has fallen in a well. I am yet to get details of the issue before making any specific comment on it."
However, appreciating forest department's efforts, Singh said, "There is aneed for larger habitat for lions now. It is efforts of our forest department that is handling population of around 600 lions in such a small area that we have. High density of lions results into more infighting as well."
Singh also cautioned about the future. "There have been only two instances in 100 years when lions have turned man-eaters. In such density there will be dire need for food and if one turns man-eater, the situation will turn dangerous."
Amreli resident and wildlife activist Rajan Joshi has a different take on the phenomenon. In a letter to the CM he stated, "It is known that a virus had killed about 1,000 lions in Africa in 1994. Moreover, there was a lion death in Sakkarbaug Zoo in Junagadh of suspected canine distemper virus in 2016.
We should not rule out such a possibility and must investigate in detail."
Singh too emphasised on a detailed investigation on the cause of deaths and said, "The department should not worry about deaths as it is natural considering mortality of lion population, but must investigate cause in depth."