2 more lions dead in Dalkhaniya range, number of lion deaths in Gir forests up at 16- all seemingly not well in the sole abode of Asiatic lions

Amreli/Gandhinagar: It now seems that all is not well with the lions of Gir, the sole abode of Asiatic lions in the world, or at least in the Dalkhaniya range of its eastern part situated in Amreli district of Gujarat.

Two more lions have died in Dalkhaniya in last 48 hours taking the number of lion deaths in a matter of few days (since September 12) in this single range to 16.

The mysterious part is that there was no clarity on the part of forest department as to exactly how many lions are still under treatment, exactly how many have been tracked and the exact reasons of death of some of the big cats.

Another startling thing is that there were no latest official updates about the so-called large-scale screening exercise of lions across and beyond Gir forests spread across three districts of Amreli, Gir Somnath and Junagadh and as greater Gir even touching parts of Bhavnagar. It is also not clear as to how many lions have actually been tracked during the exercise started since September 23.

The number of lions per the last five yearly census of lions in May 2015 was 523 which was 27% higher than that of the last one of 2010 (411).

During the hurriedly convened press conference on September 21 after the reports about deaths of around a dozen lions in just one range came, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) and Head of Forestry Force (HOFF) of Gujarat G K Sinha had claimed that the deaths of big cats were mostly due to in-fight and despite such things the number of lions in Gir was seeing a rise with an annual growth rate of at least 5%.

By that reckoning the number of lions in Gir should be at least 15% up from that of May 2015 ie in number terms it should be 75 to 80 up. This way it should be over 600 by now.

But during the so called screening exercise as per the statement of Gujarat Forest Minister Ganpat Vasava after his visit of Dalkhaniya range of Gir forests on September 29, only around 500 lions were tracked.

There were no further updates about it. The minister had said that around 3000 square km area has been covered by 100 teams of over 500 forest personnel (Gir has only around 1800 sq km area).

Several forest officials including medium to top level ones are now seemingly avoiding any queries about the screening campaign and the latest situation about the lions.

Unconfirmed reports say that over 35 lions have been taken out of jungle only in Dalkhaniya. Of these more than 20 were kept in Jamwala animal care center alone. There were no official words about their condition.

The government and the forest officials had claimed that there was nothing wrong in Dalkhaniya or no virus outbreak or any other foul play including man-animal conflict, in the forest range where so many lions have died in just a matter of few days. They repeatedly said that it was in-fight which was the reason behind most of the deaths. But many questions are still seemingly unanswered.

What was the disease which has killed the other lions. What has caused so many in-fights in just one range of the forest which was so vast.

Notably, the five yearly Lion Census conducted last time in May 2015 had estimated the population of Asiatic lions at 523 (27% up compared to previous census in 2010). The population was 411 in 2010 and 359 in 2005. As per the 2015 census, the population of lions in Junagadh district was 268, Gir Somnath 44, Amreli District 174 (highest increase) and in adjoining Bhavangar District was 37. Of them there were 109 males, 201 females and 213 cubs.

Gujarat High Court had snubbed the state government after reports of the death of around 182 lions in last two years, had come to fore earlier this year.

DeshGujarat

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