Bodies of 11 Asiatic Lions were found in Gujarat’s Gir Forest in the last 11 days. Officials deny foul play and say that most of them died of a lung infection the cause of which is still not known. Gir is the last bastion of the Asiatic Lion and it has been long felt that some of the lions should be trans-located to a second protected area to ensure an epidemic of any kind does not wipe out the entire species.
The 11 bodies include three adult females, two adult males, and six cubs. All the dead lions were found mainly from Dalkhaniya range – the east forest range of the national park. The authorities believe that some of them may have also died due to infighting. 3 of the cubs aged between 5 and 9 months were being treated at the Jasadhar Animal Care Centre and the Junagadh Veterinary College. They passed away during treatment.
Veterinary Forest Officer Hitesh Vamja from the Gir National Park, informed, “All of them have died due to lung infection. Cause of infection isn’t known as yet. We’re giving preventive medicines to other lions so that they don’t get affected.”
Additionally, a dead lioness was also found a day earlier after she preyed on a poisoned wild boar. Earlier the same week a carcass of another wild cat had been found by authorities but the body was severely decomposed and it was hard for the officials to ascertain if it was a male or a female.
While all these deaths have taken in the same range, the forest officials say the area is too vast to say for sure that all of them died of the same cause. For three of the deaths they are certain of infighting.
As per the 2015 census, Gir is home to 523 lions and the numbers are growing with the lions spreading out and looking for new territories. As per reports at least 54% of the lions live outside the protected territories of Gujarat.
Urgent Need For New Habitats
In 2013, the Supreme Court of India had issued an order to move certain number of lions from Gir National Park to Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh but till date no lion has been moved. The Gujarat government states the move will happen only after the 33 studies for translocation under the guidelines set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) are conducted in Madhya Pradesh. It is not clear why these studies have not been conducted in the last 5 years.
Meanwhile, in June this year the Gujarat government also announced plans to move some lions within the state in new locations namely – Barda Sanctuary in Porbandar and Rampura Sanctuary near Rajkot. And yet, even these trans-locations have not happened till now.
Most experts feel it is the complete unwillingness of the state governments and the central government to deal with the urgency of the problem that is delaying the move of the lions to a secondary location. After putting effort for decades to save the unique Asiatic Lions from imminent extinction it would be sad to see their numbers plummet again because of simple lack of initiative from governments’ end to save India’s pride.
Featured image via Flickr/cc by kabacchi