THE NUMBER of deaths of Asiatic lions in Dalkhaniya range of Gir (east) forest division went up to 14 as one more lioness, which had been shifted to a care centre after being found in poor health, died on Tuesday. Forest officers said that four more lions were given treatment for minor injuries.
Principal chief conservator of forests (PCC) G K Sinha stated that teams, which have been scouring the entire Gir forest and other protected areas since Sunday to look for any ill lions in need of medical treatment, had found the sick lioness in Sarasiya Vidi area in Dalkhaniya range of Gir (east) forest on Monday. “The lioness was rescued and brought to the rescue centre for medical treatment. She however died during treatment. Her age was around eight to nine years,” Sinha said in an official release on Tuesday.
This is the 14th death of Asiatic lions in Dalkhaniya range in around as many days. Forest officers said that the series of deaths, including of six cubs, had been triggered by a fight among male lions to take over a pride in Sarasiya Vidi. They say that six lion cubs had died due to either injuries sustained in infighting or due to commotion the fight had created. Three lionesses and two male lions had also died in the wake of the fight. One more lioness, which was found to be ill in Sarasiya range, had died on Monday before veterinarians could give medical treatment. Another lion cub, believed to be around six-months-old and which had been rescued a day earlier, too, died while being given medical treatment on Monday.
The release said that the lioness, which died on Tuesday, had taken ill around two years ago and was given medical treatment at that time. “A microchip was recovered from her body. Based on this chip, it was revealed that the same lioness had been found in a stricken condition on September 4, 2016 and that it had been rescued, given medical treatment and released,” Sinha, who is also the state chief wildlife warden, stated in the release.
Forest officers said that the blood and tissue of the dead lioness were being tested to ascertain its cause of death and nature of illness.
Sinha said the teams had already scanned 785 square km of lion habitat, including protected forest area and revenue area adjacent to them and had spotted total 164 lions. Out of them, 158 were found to be in healthy condition while four were observed to be nursing minor injuries. The four carnivores with minor injuries had been given medical treatment on the spot and were released subsequently. “One more lioness which was seemingly weak is being rescued for the purpose of giving her medical treatment,” the PCCF said.
Incidentally, the forest department has sent samples of some of the dead lions to National Institute of Virology in Pune to know if the big cats had contracted any infection, causing their deaths. Results of the laboratory tests of those samples are awaited.