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Gujarat govt rules out foul play in death of 11 Gir lions, says territorial fight to blame

Officials said three cubs died in infighting, two lions and a lioness died due to respiratory failure, post-mortem reports of  another lion and a lioness are awaited, whereas cause of death of two cubs and a lion has not been determined so far.

india Updated: Sep 21, 2018 22:39 IST
Hiral Dave
Hiral Dave
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad
Gujarat,Gir,lion
Officials said Dalkhaniya range has a stable pride of 22 lions, whereas another 15 were seen in this range periodically in the last four years.(HT File Photo)

The Gujarat government on Friday ruled out any foul play into the deaths of 11 lions in the past eight days at Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park — the last abode of the Asiatic lions.

The discovery of 11 carcasses had prompted the state government to order an inquiry. The preliminary report by the departmental inquiry has revealed that territorial fight had claimed the lives of most of the big cats.

“Carcasses were found between September 12 to 19. As many as three cubs have died in infighting. Two lions and a lioness died due to respiratory failure. Post-mortem reports of another lion and a lioness are awaited, whereas cause of death of two cubs and a lion has not been determined so far,” said principal chief conservator of forests GK Sinha.

All the carcasses were found in two ranges in Gir (east) division, mainly from Dalkhaniya and Jasadhar ranges in Amreli district. For administrative purposes, the Gir forest, spread across four districts — Junagadh, Amreli, Gir-Somnath and Bhavnagar — has been divided into the east and west ranges.

Sinha said nine of the lions had died in Dalkhaniya range and two in Jasadhar. The forest official maintained that Dalkhaniya range has a stable pride of 22 lions, whereas another 15 were seen in this range periodically in the last four years.

“It was not even infighting for area, but territory. While lions within the stable pride were getting old and weak, the younger lions from another territory killed cubs and forced the older lions and lionesses into hiding. In hiding, they might have starved. But there was no case of contamination.”

“These deaths were not due to poaching or drinking any contaminated water,’’ said forest minister Ganpat Vasava.

Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, terming the deaths as a matter of concern, said action will be taken if negligence at any level is found. “Natural or unnatural, deaths of lions are cause of concern for the government.Steps will be taken if any negligence is found,” he said.

However, wildlife activists are not convinced. “A lion might have killed another in infighting. But for us, it is difficult to believe that even the three cubs were killed in infighting as well. We are going to seek the post-mortem report of the 11 cases through RTI,” said Bhikhabhai Jethva, president of Lion’s Nature Club, which has been working on conservation and safety of Asiatic lions.

As per the 2015 census, spread across 1,412 sq km, the Gir is home to 523 lions, a jump of 27.25% since the 2010 census. Rajya Sabha MP Parimal Nathwani said a probe must be conducted to ascertain if the deaths occurred due to electrocution, poisoning or poaching.

Sinha said, “On an average, per year 210 cubs are born and 140 among them die by the age of three due to various natural and unnatural reasons. Whereas 70 of them attain adulthood.”

First Published: Sep 21, 2018 22:39 IST