A lioness and a lion cub died in Dalkhaniya range of Gir (East) forest on Monday, taking the total death count of Asiatic lions in the area to 11 in two weeks. The Forest Department, however, maintained that the deaths were not unusual and they died of “illness”.
Forest officers said that one of the teams tasked with the screening of the lions in Gir forest and other protected areas for possible illness had spotted a lioness in poor health. “The staff found that the lioness, believed to be three to four years old, was stricken by illness and maintained a close watch on her so that she could be given medical treatment. However, the lioness died before any medical treatment could be given to her,” an official release from the office of Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) GK Sinha said.
The release said that a scan of the dead lioness revealed that a micro chip had been fitted on her and that she had been given medical treatment in September last year after she had fallen ill. “Local staff has undertaken the task of conducting a post-mortem and to check if she had contracted any infection,” the PCCF added.
Meanwhile, a five-month-old lion cub, which was rescued by the screening team, died on Monday. The cub had been shifted to an animal care centre in Jasadhar in Gir East forest division on Sunday after one of the scanning teams found that the cub was ill.
Chief Conservator of Forests (Junagadh wildlife circle) T D Vasavada told The Indian Express that both the lioness and the cub were spotted in Sarasiya Vidi in Dalkhaniya range of Gir (East) forest division in Amreli district. He said that the primary post-mortem reports were awaited.
However, the PCCF said that there was nothing unusual in the recent deaths of the lions. “According to last census, population of lions in Gujarat was estimated to be 523. The average age of wild lions remains in the range of 12 to 15 years. Every year 100 to 150 lion deaths are reported. It has been observed that three rainy months record 10 to 15 more deaths. Due to moisture and infestation of insects, possibility of lion deaths during monsoon remains comparatively high. Over the last two years, the three months of monsoon have recorded average 31 to 32 deaths. In the last two years, this period has recorded 32 deaths each. This year, 31 lions deaths have been recorded which is less than the three-monthly average,” the PCCF said.
It also said that 70 to 72 per cent lion cubs do not make it to adulthood due to natural causes and therefore, there was nothing unusual in deaths of the lion cub rescued from Dalkhaniya range.
On Sunday, the Forest Department had formed 64 teams to screen the entire lion population after the deaths of 11 lions in 10 days.