The single abode of Asiatic Lions in the world is in mourning. After the death of 14 lions since 12th September, 7 more wild lions have died between 20th and 30th September raising the total number of lion deaths to 21. The last seven lions were sent to rescue centre for treatment, but could not be saved. The state government now says that these deaths are due to an unidentified virus attack.
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According to officials the virus was found in 4 of the lions and six others were found to be infected by protozoa spread by ticks.
The forest department began screening of all the lions at Gir National Park after the recent deaths and identified 7 more lions that looked infected. These lions were sent to the rescue centre but died one by one.
The tissue and blood samples of all the lions have been sent to Pune based National Institute of Virology (NIV)
Though the presence of virus was also found, it will take some more time to identify the exact type of virus,” said Chief Conservator of Forest, Junagadh Wildlife Circle, D T Vasavada to News18.
At present 31 more lions have been rescued and kept under observation. Officers say the lions seem to be healthy. Meanwhile more experts from Delhi Zoo, Uttar Pradesh Lion Safari Project and Vet schools have been asked to conduct health check ups and collect samples of the lions.
As precautionary measures, the state government has also decided to bring special medicines and vaccines from the US.
While conducting the screen process, what was also revealed is that the number of lions in Gir has gone up to almost 600 against the 523 that was estimated in 2015. The rising numbers alongwith the present threat invariably raises the question of when and how rapidly will the state and the central government plan another habitat for the Asiatic lions so as to safeguard future population from danger of mass calamities.