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Gujarat: Over 24 Asiatic lions ‘die of babesiosis’ in 3 months, forest minister says it’s ‘under control’

The outbreak of the disease caused by the babesia protozoa still persists, sources in Gujarat forest department told The Indian Express on Thursday.

Written by Gopal B Kateshiya | Rajkot | Updated: June 4, 2020 8:24:58 pm
gir forest, asiatic lions, babesiosis, Gujarat Forest Minister, Ganpat Vasava, indian express news The forest department has been rescuing infected lions or suspected cases to animal care centres and treating them. (Representational Image)

Even as the Gujarat forest department is preparing to undertake the monthly exercise of observing Asiatic lions, veterinarians continue to fight the outbreak of babesiosis among these lions in Gir (East) Wildlife Division. Gujarat Forest Minister Ganpat Vasava, however, claimed that the situation is under control.

Over two dozen Asiatic lions in Gir (East) Wildlife Division have reportedly died of babesiosis since March this year. The outbreak of the disease caused by the babesia protozoa still persists, sources in Gujarat forest department told The Indian Express on Thursday.

“It is still there. Besides treating the infected lions, we are taking measures like burning grass around water-holes where ticks are found and sanitising cattle,” a source said.

A team from the Central government had recently visited the Gir forest, reportedly to assess the situation. However, Vasava said, “Babesia is much under control now. Teams of veterinary doctors are on the job.” Regarding the visit by the Centre’s team, Vasava said it was a routine visit. “It was not a special visit. They keep visiting various sanctuaries in the country and they came here the same way. They have observed everything,” the minister said.

The babesia protozoa attacks the red blood cells of animals and makes them anemic. The forest department has been rescuing infected lions or suspected cases to animal care centres and treating them. The department has also been releasing lions back into the wild after they recover from the infection. “It is almost over now. The situation is very much under control now,” said a field officer of the forest department.

Incidentally, the 15th lion population estimation exercise, popularly known as lion census, was due to be conducted this summer but was postponed indefinitely due to the outbreak of Covid-19. However, forest department officials and other staffers will continue the routine monthly exercise of “observing” lions on full moons, falling on Friday and Saturday this June.

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