At least 12 lions, six of them cubs, have died in Amreli district alone in the past 10 days, forcing the state government to order a detailed inquiry.
Though eight of these wild cats died due to illnesses, which could not be treated, and three in infighting, the death of a dozen lions in short span has become a cause of worry for the department. Sources said the 11 deaths have been reported in Dalkhaniya range of Gir East alone.
According to the forest department, three lion cubs aged between five to nine months died during treatment on September 18. Two were under treatment in Jasadhar animal care centre and one was in Junagadh Veterinary College.
A lioness was found dead in Rajula too after she preyed on a poisoned wild boar on Wednesday.
Forest and environment minister Ganpat Vasava said, “I have ordered an inquiry into the deaths of lions. A team from Gandhinagar has been sent to Amreli for investigation. As per primary report, three lions died in infighting which is a natural cause. Once we get the postmortem reports of other lions and unnatural reasons are found for their deaths, we will take necessary action.”
On Wednesday, carcass of a five-year-old wild cat, believed to have died five to seven days ago, was found in the same forest area. The body was so badly decomposed that the veterinary doctors were unable to determine whether it was a male or female.
Vijay Chaudhary, assistant conservator of forest (ACF), Dalkhaniya range, said: “Eight lions died of lung or liver infection. We have sent the samples to Dantiwada animal care centre and Junagadh veterinary hospital to know exact cause of death.” However he denied any epidemic behind this death.
“Primarily the deaths look due to natural causes, but as they have happened in last 10 days, its a cause of concern. Though the death are in the same range, the area is very vast and they have died at different places,” Chaudhary added.
Rajya Sabha MP Parimal Nathwani too has expressed concern over the lion deaths. “The news that bodies of four lions have been found in the last few days is saddening and unfortunate. It is feared that total 11 lions may be dead and rest of the bodies have not yet been found. If it is true, it is alarming and it is high time that authorities investigate the cause of such deaths and book the culprits,” he said in a statement.
Jitesh Trapasiya, a farmer of jamvala gir village (which is home to the Asiatic lions) near Talala gir, said,
Subsequent efforts by the @vijayrupanibjp Govt have helped provide a safe environment for the #AsiaticLions & the lion population has gone up to 523, with a roaring rise of 46% in last decade, in #GirSanctuary and its surrounding areas in #Gujarat @aajtak @ANI @abpnewstv @dna pic.twitter.com/KY8K2nWr3k
— Jitesh Trapasiya (@jiteshtrapasiya) September 21, 2018