A youth was arrested from near the Gir Sanctuary for illegally organising “lion shows” for tourists, forest department sources said Saturday.
The accused, Ashish Agrawat, a resident of Talala in Gir-Somnath district, was detained by the Range Forest Officer of Talala on Friday. The forest department has been searching for him, for his alleged involvement in a two-month-old case where a forest trekker was ‘stabbed to death’ by seven persons who were conducting an illegal lion show, near Dhari in Amreli district. “During the interrogation of the accused caught in the Dhari case, the name of Agrawat came up. We have been searching for him since then,” said a forest official who requested not to be named.
During the interrogation of Agrawat, he admitted that he used to conduct lion shows in the revenue area close to Hiran river between Mandor and Bherala villages of the district, the official added. The accused knew of spots where the lion pride could be spotted and used to conduct his operations after nightfall. “We have confirmed this from the villagers who lived nearby,” the official said. Agrawat is currently out on bail and will be called in for questioning in the presence of senior forest officials on Monday, the officer added.
These incidents of organising “illegal” lion shows have come to light in areas that lie in close proximity to the Gir sanctuary.
Earlier in March this year, a forest trekker, Dharmendra Vala, was killed on the spot after a forest patrol came under attack from a group of persons who were conducting an illegal lion show, near Bordi village, in Dhari taluka of Amreli district.