In an oral order given on Thursday, on the basis of a report on the rising deaths of Asiatic lions in the world’s only sanctuary for the species in the state, a division bench of Justices S R Brahmbhatt and A P Thaker asked the state government to file its reply, and posted the matter for further hearing on July 11.
Gir forest and other protected areas spread across Junagadh, Amreli, Gir Somnath and Bhavnagar districts of Saurashtra region are the last abode of Asiatic lions in the world. Population of these endangered big cats was estimated to be 523 in year 2015. However, 167 of them were living outside protected forest areas.
The bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice V M Pancholi directed the government to file periodic progress reports on the construction of parapet walls around open farm wells and removal of illegal unauthorised wire fencing from farms.
The 23 lion deaths have been reported from Sarasiya Vidi in Dalkhaniya range of Gir (east) forest division in Amreli district. While 11 lions died between September 12 and 19, the tally went up to 23 by second of this month as 12 more lions died mysteriously.
Laboratory tests have confirmed that four of the 23 lions had been infected by the dreaded canine distemper virus (CDV) while 10 others had been infected Babesia protozoa, an infection spread by tick parasite.