Every 5th lion death in Gir unnatural
The Times Of India
AHMEDABAD: Every fifth lion death in Gir and its surrounding areas is an unnatural death. Of the 253 lion deaths reported between April 1, 2015 and 31 March 2018, 50 have been unnatural deaths.
In the state assembly, the government stated that of the 253 lion deaths in the last three years, the number of adult deaths remained constant, at around 50 a year, but the numbers of juvenile lion deaths has seen ups and downs. Some 93 juvenile lions died in the last three years.
Interestingly, in a reply tabled in the assembly, the government stated that from April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2018, a total of 414 lions died, of which 260 were adults and 154 were juveniles.
The number of unnatural deaths in last five years was 70, of which 50 were in last three financial years. Officials said the unnatural deaths figures include those by poisoning, electrocution or falls into open wells.
A senior officer, who asked not to be identified, said that there are still 5,000 open wells in the revenue areas of Amreli, Junagadh, Gir Somnath and Bhavnagar. Many lions have made these areas their home.
"Of late, four or five incidents were reported where the lion was at one place and its body was disposed of at another. This is indicates that with the lion population growing outside the forest area, people are getting hostile towards them," said a senior officer.
H S Singh, member of the National Board for Wildlife and a lion expert, says "With the lion population increasing outside the protected areas in Amreli, Bhavnagar and Gir Somnath, incidents of poisoning or unnatural deaths will increase. With more lions outside, the population resistance factor will operate at a higher level which will lead to more man-animal conflict."
Another officer said, "Deaths are usually under-reported as about 20% of a big cat population dies, on average, every year. In the case of Gujarat, the numbers reported are between 15% and a maximum of 19%. It is also not humanly possible to report all deaths and many deaths, especially of cubs, go unreported."
A former principal chief conservator of forests said that every year, about 210 cubs are born and 140 die before they get to the age of three. Now, the figures of the last the years puts cub deaths at just 93, which means that all cub deaths are not being reported or the department is hiding the count.