Close on the heels of the death of 11 lions/lionesses/cubs in Dalkhaniya range of Dhari area in the Eastern Gir forest in Amreli district of Gujarat, two more big cats including a lioness and a cub have also died in the same range of the forest in the last 24 hours.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) in Gujarat Akshay Saxena on Monday said that after the incident of deaths of 2 lions, 3 lionesses and 6 cubs in Dalkhaniya range in 8 days between September 12 to 19, a total of 64 teams of forest department personnel and experts have been deployed in a campaign across the Gir forest, the sole abode of Asiatic lions spread across over 1400 square km in three districts of Gir-Somnath, Junagadh and Amreli districts in Saurashtra region of Gujarat, to locate the remaining lions and monitor their health condition as precautionary measure and also provide medical help if there was a need for it.
‘Of these 8 teams were deployed in 8000 sq hectare area in Dalkhaniya range. It found a 3 to 4 year old lioness in poor health in a ravine area. It died before any treatment could be provided to it. A collar id chip was found on its body and it was tracked that the lioness had fallen ill in September last year too. Detailed investigation about the reason behind the death or any viral infection was on,’ he said.
From the same area an around five to six month old lion cub was also found in poor health and was taken to Jasadhar animal care center yesterday but it died during treatment today. The tissues from its viscera has been sent to lab for testing to ascertain the reason behind death,’ the PCCF said.
He said that during monsoon in last two years on an average 32 lions had died while this year so far this number was 31. As per the last five yearly lion census conducted in 2015, the total number of lions in Gir forests was 23, around 27% up from the earlier one.
Meanwhile the forest department and the central team reiterated that of the 11 earlier lion deaths in Dalkhaniya, most were due to infight owing to intrusion of new lions in the area. A team from center led by Additional Forest Secretary Rajiv Mathur had also visited the forest. The ruled out any virus caused disease outbreak to be the reason behind the deaths.