AN ASIATIC lion died allegedly after getting caught in a trap laid on an agricultural farm in the revenue area of Sarasiya range in Gir (east) forest division in Amreli district on Friday. Later in the evening, forest officers said they were treating the incident as a case of lion hunting and that two farm workers have been detained for questioning.
The sub-adult male lion was found dead on the farm, which lies between Chalala and Mithapur villages in Dhari taluka. It belongs to one Valjibhai Donga of Mithapur.
The animal died after its neck got trapped in a snare, Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) of Junagadh Wildlife Circle Dushyant Vasavada said, adding, “The snare was made of iron and looks like a clutch wire.”
Gir (east) forest division is part of Junagadh Wildlife Circle.
After the carnivore was found dead, forest department staff scanned the area. Later in the evening, Vasavada said, they detained the two farm workers identified as Vijay Agrodiya (25) and Jagu Waghela (32), residents of Chalala village. “We are questioning them. Prima facie, this is a case of hunting,” the CCF told The Indian Express. An FIR is being registered in this connection.
In-charge Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) of Gir (east) PG Gardi said “We are questioning them (Agrodiya and Waghela) as to who had laid the trap and what was the motive. The incident occurred around 17 km east of Dhari, the headquarters of Gir (east) forest division.
Sarasiya is the range where a year ago more than two dozen Asiatic lions had died following an outbreak of canine distemper virus. A mixture of forest and agro-pastoral land, it is one of the largest ranges in Gir forest, the last natural abode of Asiatic lions.
Asiatic lions, categorised as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nation and included in Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, enjoy the highest legal protection in the country. Hunting of lions is punishable by imprisonment up to seven years and monetary fine not less than Rs 10,000. The Asiatic lion population was estimated to be 523 in 2015 and the next lion census is due in less than eight months.
Gir forest and other protected areas are spread across Amreli, Junagadh, Gir Somnath and Bhavnagar districts in Saurashtra region. Gir National Park and Sanctuary, which also covers the Gir (east) division, is a highly protected forest area, and hunting or poaching of lions has been rare in the more than five decades since the area was declared a sanctuary in 1965. The only major poaching incident in the history of the sanctuary was recorded in 2007.
However, some Asiatic lions do get killed occasionally after coming in contact with electrified fences farmers install around their fields to prevent wild animals from raiding their crops. In such incidents, the forest department takes action against the farmers.