TWO SUB-ADULT lions allegedly attacked and killed a 17-year-old tribal girl outside her cottage on an agricultural field in Dhanfuliya village of Vanthali taluka of Junagadh district when she stepped out to answer nature’s call on Monday night, forest officers said.
Officers of the Gir Somnath social forestry division said that the two male lions charged at Bhavna Bamaniya (17) and her cousin sister Rekha when they stepped out of their cottage on Harsukh Chavda’s agricultural field in Dhanfuliya village at around 9.30 pm on Monday.
“As the lions charged at them, Rekha jumped into a nearby water tank. However, the carnivores caught hold of the other girl, killed her, dragged her to a neighbouring farm and partially ate her body. Our staff reached the spot immediately and tried to rescue the girl but couldn’t. They recovered her body,” Ushman Nanavati, deputy conservator of forests (DCF), Gir Somnath social forestry division, told The Indian Express on Tuesday.
Dhanfuliya is 12 km east of Vanthali town and less than 20 km from the border of Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary, the nearest protected forest area, which is a habitat of lions. The village is located on the bank of Ozat river and lions outside protected areas prefer riverine patches for shelter.
Police said that the Rekha raised an alarm as soon as the lions attacked them. “A team of forest department staff reached the spot immediately and tried to shout the animals away but to no avail. The carnivores could only be driven away only after around half an hour… By that time, the animals had eaten lower limbs of the girl,” Shailesh Sondarva, a head constable with Vanthali police, said.
Sondarva is conducting an inquiry into the incident after a case of accidental death was registered at Vanthali police station early Tuesday morning. “The victim was a native of Methan village in Singvad taluka of Dahod district in eastern Gujarat. Her parents were in their native village while Bhavna came to Dhanfuliya with her maternal uncle’s family to work as agricultural labourer. Her body has been kept at government hospital in Junagadh city and her parents have been informed,” he added.
The DCF said that the forest department was trying to rescue the lions after their unusual behaviour. “This is a very unfortunate incident and the behaviour of the two lions is very unusual. Efforts are on to cage them,” Nanavati said.
According to forest officials, unless provoked, Asiatic lions rarely attack humans as the carnivores do not see humans as their prey. Human deaths on account of attacks by lions in and around Gir forest and other protected areas spread across Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts are not common occurrence, they said.
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