March 2, 2021 4:01:04 am
AFTER SPENDING more than a month in captivity at Sakkarbaug Zoo in Junagadh, a pride of eight Asiatic lions, that had been captured from a village in Jetpur taluka of Rajkot district in November 2020, has been released back into the wild, forest officials confirmed on Monday.
“After completing due procedure, we released the lions back into their natural habitat a couple of days ago. We will track the movement of this pride for some time…,” Dushyant Vasavada, Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) of Junagadh Wildlife Circle, told The Indian Express on Monday.
The pride, comprising a female and seven sub-adults, was rescued from Jetpur range of Rajkot social forestry division on January 26 and shifted to Sakkarbaug Zoo in Junagadh. That was for the second time that the pride was captured by the forest department.
In November last year, Food, Civil Supply and Consumer Affairs Minister Jayesh Radadiya reportedly wrote to the forest department. In his letter, Radadiya, an MLA from Jetpur assembly constituency, reportedly sought the removal of the carnivores from the area as farmers were not able to work on their fields.
Since being rescued, the lions were in captivity in Sakkarbaug Zoo. “It was a large pride; we had to medically check them and keep them under observation for some time. Multiple jurisdictions were involved in the operation and we had to take all of them on board before releasing the lions,” said Vasavada.
The area from where the lions were rescued falls in Rajkot social forestry division of Rajkot social forestry circle. The rescue was conducted with the assistance of a team of Junagadh division of Junagadh territorial forest circle before the custody of the animals was handed over to the Junagadh Wildlife Circle.
While the CCF refused to divulge the exact location where the pride of eight lions was released, he said, “The lioness in the pride is radio-collared and that is helping in tracking the movement of the group.”
Incidentally, 33 lions rescued from Semardi in Gir (Wast) Wildlife Division following an outbreak of canine distemper virus are also being held captive in Sakkarbaug Zoo.
Days after the Jetpur pride was initially rescued and released in November, it raided a gaushala (cowshed) in Arab Timbdi village and preyed on 10 cows. “This pride came from Visavadar in Gir (West) forest division and kept moving in Jetpur range for weeks,” a forest officer said on condition of anonymity.
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