Gujarat acts to save its pride

Seeks help from Centre, foreign experts after 23 lions die in less than a month

Updated - October 04, 2018 02:58 pm IST

Published - October 03, 2018 10:27 pm IST - AHMEDABAD

File photograph of lions in Devalia forest of Sasan Gir, Gujarat.

File photograph of lions in Devalia forest of Sasan Gir, Gujarat.

Stunned by the deaths of 23 lions since September 12, the Gujarat government, which initially insisted that the lions had died due to infighting for territorial domination, has now sprung into action and launched not only rescue efforts but also called experts from outside, including London, and imported a vaccine from the United States.

“We have sought the help of the Central government and called international experts to help us control the situation,” said Dr. Rajiv Gupta, Additional Chief Secretary, Environment and Forest, Gujarat.

Under treatment

“At present, 33 lions are under treatment at the rescue centre in Jamvala, while three others are being treated in the Jasadhar rescue centre,” Ganpat Vasava, Gujarat’s Environment and Forest Minister, told mediapersons on Wednesday.

 

Elaborating on the measures underway, Mr. Vasava said that more than 500 lions had already been screened to detect viral infections in the big cats in the Gir forests and revenue areas, as Asiatic lions are spread in as many as eight districts in the Saurashtra region.

In possibly the worst-ever tragedy in the Gir forest, the only abode of Asiatic lions in the world, apart from the 23 lions that have died since September 12, as many as 36 are battling for their lives as a deadly outbreak of Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) and tick-borne Babesiosis is killing the great cats famously known as Gujarat’s pride.

According to the State Forest Department, of the 23 deaths, four lions died of CDV, and 17 were killed by a tick-borne infection. The cause of death of two lions is yet to be ascertained.

Meanwhile, experts and forest officials blame the State authorities for “adopting a casual approach” in conservation, and not taking precautionary measures to deal with the epidemic.

According to experts, the Gujarat government was warned in 2011, when the Centre for Animal Disease Research and Diagnosis (CADRAD), Bengaluru, and the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), Uttarakhand, analysed tissues from a 2007 Gir lion carcass and found the presence of highly contagious Peste Des Petits Ruminants Virus (PPRV), which carries an 80%-100% chance of mortality. Subsequently, four lions sent from Gujarat to the Lion Safari Park in Uttar Pradesh in 2014, died of CDV in 2016.

 

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