March 5, 2021 10:27:08 pm
In a short span of two years, 313 Asiatic Lions perished in the forests of Gujarat, of which 7.34 per cent died due to unnatural causes, the state government informed the state legislature on Friday.
While the Congress claimed that the deaths were influenced by rotting cattle meat that illegally makes its way into Gir from the peripheral villages, the state government defended saying that the population of these carnivores have risen by 29 per cent in the past five years.
Of the total number of Asiatic lions that perished between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2020, a majority 152 were cubs, 90 were lionesses and the remaining 71 were male lions, forest minister Ganpat Vasava said in reply to a question by Congress MLA from Lathi, Virji Thummar.
“One of the reasons for the death of lions is that dead cattle is brought inside the Gir sanctuary as feed. The lions eat this rotten flesh and die and their deaths are considered natural,” Thummar claimed adding that if the forest department do not stop this practice, then deaths of lions will continue to rise.
Gir, which is the last remaining abode of Asiatic Lions in the world, currently has 674 lions as per a survey conducted by the forest department. “When the enumeration of lions were carried out in 2015, there were 523 lions and when the exercise was carried out again in 2020, there were 674 lions which means there was a 29 per cent increase in population in five years,” Vasava said adding that the state government will take strict action if they get any complaints of dead cattle being given inside the sanctuary.
The forest minister said that the state government has spent Rs 33 crore in making parapets for 43,000 open wells to prevent lions from falling into them. He said the government has started four lion ambulances which is equipped with anaesthesia-cum-ventilator, multiparameters monitor, blood analyser,
centrifugal machine and ultrasound machine.
“We have set up CCTV cameras to prevent unauthorised entry into the sanctuary. There are 12 hospitals for lions, nine doctors and as the territory of lions have grown, we have established a new Shetrunji division of the sanctuary. This BJP government is determined to protect the lions,” Vasava said.
During discussion on the subject, Thummar alleged that about 25 Asiatic Lions were given to zoos outside the state. The minister in his reply said that the lions which were sent to zoos in other states were captive lions from Sakkarbaugh Zoo of Junagadh. “No wild lions have been given to other states,” Vasava added.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Thummar said, “The meat of dead cattle makes its way to the sanctuary illegally and the lions fall ill and die after eating it.”
In reply to a separate question by Congress MLA from Junagadh, Bikhabhai Joshi, about the number of animals sent to other zoos from Sakkarbaugh, the state government in a written reply stated that in the past two years, 25 lions have been sent to zoos in Rajasthan, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. Seven Asiatic Lions were sent to Itawa Safari Park in Uttar Pradesh during this period.
The state government also said that it had sent 88 birds and animals, including lions and leopards, from Sakkarbaug to the new Sardar Patel Zoological Park at Kevadia, near the Statue of Unity.
In response to another question asked by Congress MLA from Taltala, Bhagabhai Barad, the state government in a written reply said Rs 108.23 crore has been allocated for the Gir sanctuary by both the Centre and the state government in two years ending December 2020. Of this, Rs 95.38 crore was given by Gujarat, while the Centre gave Rs 12.85 crore.
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