Forest officials are investigating an alleged lion show hosted in Gir,where six persons were reportedly caught watching lions feasting on a carcass.
Forest officials released the six detained who took part in the show near Amreli village this weekend but remain convinced that this show was organised for money,especially since two of those detained hail from Mumbai and Ahmedabad. The remaining persons hail from the taluka where the show happened.
Deputy Conservator of Forests,Gir (East),Anshuman Sharma,said he was in a jeep with N B Paradwa (a Range Forest Officer of the Tulsishyam range) and another official between 8.30 and 9 pm on Saturday when Paradwa received a tip-off by phone. About thirty vehicles were parked in farmland adjacent to Ghariyar village,with passengers watching lions feasting on an ox carcass,the informer said.
The foresters had immediately rushed for the spot and reached at around 9.30 pm.
Sharma said he could count 10-11 vehicles from the lights,with most making their exit along routes away from where their jeep approached.
However,three vehicles tried to flee from the same route and were apprehended. Two had Rajkot district registration plates (GJ 03),one had a Maharashtra registration,particularly Thane district (MH 04). Inspecting the area,foresters soon found five more lions.
Meanwhile,a large group of more than 150 villagers came to the area and started arguing with the foresters ,saying no one can be prosecuted because the incident took place outside the sanctuary.
I know that villagers around Gir are by and large good and would not harm lions. They are in fact a major reason for the successful conservation story here,but there are a handful of people who are involved in illegal or unethical practices, he said.
While lions and leopards have been known to venture outside the sanctuary,Sharma remains unconvinced the incident happened spontaneously because of the large audience,how they made their way inside farmland through kilometers of dirt roads and how they fled helter-skelter upon seeing the authorities.
It is natural for people in vehicles to stop when they see lions by the roadside and watch them. But how can so many vehicles travel so far along dirt roads inside farmlands,knowing lions were there? It was all about money, he said over phone from Gir.