Security measures in Gir National Park
The killing of three lions in Gir National Park, which came to light the previous week, has stirred authorities into action with an overhaul of the security arrangements for the big cats being considered.
The incident, in which the bones, skulls and claws were missing from the scene of crime, was discovered on March 3 and set alarm bells ringing in the Gujarat's forest establishment.
"This is for the first time that the bones and skulls are missing from the crime scene along with claws," Junagadh Conservator of Forest Bharat Pathak said.
"Poaching has happened in past in Gir. In 2005, two lions were killed but their claws and skin went missing and bones were intact. We traced the killers, who were locals," Pathak said.
"However, this time the bones are mising along with claws while we recovered lion skins with their carcasses," he added.
The forest department suspects the hand of international gangs behind the killing of two adult and one young lioness.
It has decided to review security arrangements of the sanctuary and make necessary changes, official sources said.
The gang could be after the bones of the lions, which are used for medicinal purpose in China and can fetch thousands of dollars in the international market, officials sources said.
"Many people believe that bones of lions are used in medicines to cure rhuematism, scabbies and other diseases. Hence a demand exists for them," Pathak said.
Bones of tiger are extensivley used in Chinese medicine.
However, with the tiger population declining due to excessive poaching, it seems the perpetrators have turned to lions, another forest department official said.
Lion claws are sold at a high price in the state and people wear them with their chains as good omen, he said.
With this incident the forest department has decided to overhaul the security of the protected forest area.
He said, "Our beat guards are equipped with the wireless sets and they have been provided with motorcycles."
"As an immediate action we have mobilised more beat guards to protect the forest. The number of guards has increased to 240 from 200," he added.
The forest department has decided to conduct a study on how to overhaul the security arrangements at the sanctuary.
"After the study we will be able to establish what is needed for strengthening the security," an official said.
The Gir National park and sanctuary has 359 lions as per the census of 2005 and is spread in 1,421 sq km.