In a major setback to Mulayam’s dream project Lion Safari at Etawah, two of the three cubs born to lioness Girishma died within 24 hours of their birth on Wednesday. With this, four cubs have died since Sunday besides the two Asiatic lions — Vishnu and Lakshmi — that lost their lives last year, leaving the officials clueless on how to protect the felines.
On Saturday, lioness Heer had given birth to two cubs but both died in quick succession in the next two days.
Following the deaths on Wednesday, senior Forest officials, including Chief Wildlife Warden Rupaq De, rushed to the Lion Safari and based a camp there to take stock of the situation.
Principal Secretary, Forest, Sanjeev Saran confirmed that senior officials are camping at Etawah. “Doctors have been called in from Gujarat and all efforts are on to save the sole remaining cub,” he said.
Even Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is reportedly keeping a close watch, seeking regular updates from the officials camping at the Safari. These officials did not respond to several attempts made by The Indian Express to contact them, with officials having restricted the entry of media persons inside the Safari until further notice.
The Lion Safari was conceived in 2005 by then Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and taken to its current shape by his son, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. Spread over 50 acres of land with another 300 acres being kept as buffer zone, the project has been marred by the consistent deaths, raising serious questions on the infrastructure being used in maintaining the Safari.
At present, the Safari has three pairs of Asiatic lions — Heer and Gigo; Manan and Kunwari; and Girishma and Kuber — with only one surviving cub which was born on Wednesday.