Forest Department is questioning a wildlife tracker in connection with a viral video in which a man was seen dragging an animal carcass tied to his motorcycle apparently to lure a lion. However, no case has been registered till the filing of the report on Thursday.
In the 15-second-long video, a man riding a motorbike is seen emerging from a dirt track with a carcass tied to his two-wheeler, followed by lion. Some persons standing at a distance and recording the video could be heard cheering the man on the bike when the lion came out of the bushes, saying, “There comes the lion!”
After the video went viral, the Forest Department took cognisance of it and launched a probe.
“The person seen dragging the carcass in the video has been identified as a wildlife tracker. He is not a regular staff member, but works for Forest Department. We are questioning him in connection with the video,” Dushyant Vasavada, Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) of Junagadh Wildlife Circle, told The Indian Express on Thursday.
Sources said that the video was shot near Matirala village in Lathi taluka of Amreli district, which is part of natural habitat of Asiatic lions.
“Primary inquiry into the incident has revealed that the tracker was removing the carcass from public gaze. However, even if that was the case, it was not the proper way to do that job. But officers are further inquiring into the matter,” the CCF said, adding wildlife trackers are not regular staff members of Forest Department.
Wildlife trackers are engaged by Gujarat State Lion Conservation Society, a trust set up by the state government to aid efforts of conserving Asiatic lions, on contract basis. They are experts of wildlife behaviour and keep a track of movement of wildlife, especially lions, and also help in rescue and rehabilitation of wild animals.
Vasavada said that they were ascertaining of the wildlife tracker seen in the video was acting in his official capacity. He added that inquiry was on about the presence of another person who is seen running away as the tracker dragging the carcass approaches, as well as the third man who is believed to have shot the video.
Gir forest and other protected areas spread across Junagadh, Amreli, Gir Somnath and Bhavnagar districts of Saurashtra region are the last abode of Asiatic lions in the world. Population of these endangered big cats was estimated to be 523 in year 2015. However, 167 of them were living outside protected forest areas.
Dozens of Asiatic lions roam freely in revenue area of talukas like Lathi, Liliya, Rajula, Khambha and Dhari talukas of Amreli district. Wildlife trackers help forest staff in keeping an eye lions in such areas as well as protected forest areas and mitigate man-animal conflict.