A pride of Asiatic lions is suspected to have killed a fisherman after he reportedly went too close to them in coastal Akhtariya village of Bhavnagar on Thursday. Forest officers said the pride of big cats has been traced and efforts were on to rescue them.
According to police officials, Rama Chudasama, a 35-year-old fisherman was found dead in Limadhar area of Akhtariya village of Mahuva taluka in Bhavnagar district at 8:30 am on Thursday. Parts of his body had been eaten by some wild animals before it was recovered in the morning.
“According to the statement of his elder brother Gidhabhai, victim Rama was a fisherman and was making preparations for his next fishing trip which was to begin in the coming two days. He says that Rama left their home in the village at around 7:30 pm on Wednesday to go out and purchase mava (a mixture of tobacco, betel nuts and lime) and did not return. His body was found near the seacoast in the village this morning. The body was partially eaten by some wild animals and on the basis of pug-marks found near the spot, the forest department has concluded that he was killed by lions,” Sarjak Barot, police inspector of Mahuva told The Indian Express.
Sandeep Kumar, deputy conservator of forests (DCF) of Bhavnagar confirmed the fisherman was indeed killed by the big cats but also added that he had been warned by forest staff not to go near lions.
“Lion presence was registered in Akhtariya village on Wednesday evening. After he found Rama wandering in the area at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, our wildlife tracker Anand had warned him not to venture in that area as, he told the fishermen, there were lions there. But Rama seeming drunk and apparently roamed in the area again. We have noticed pug-marks of a lioness and a sub-adult lion, confirming he was killed by the big cats,” Kumar said.
Asiatic lions are an endangered species. Their only wild population in the entire world is surviving in Gir forest and other protected areas spread across Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts.
“Soon after the incident came to light, our staff has tracked down the pride consisting of a lioness, a sub-adult male and a one-year-old cub. The operation is on to cage them. We have set up a ring-cage and a veterinarian is also part of the rescue team. Once the animals are caged, we shall analyse samples of their scat to ascertain if they had indeed eaten the man,” Kumar, who had served for more than six years as DCF of Sasan wildlife division in Gir forest and who has studied Asiatic lions further said.
The incident comes two weeks after two male lions attacked and killed a caretaker and injured two others in Gir Interpretation Zone, Devaliya, a safari park near Sasan in Gir (west) forest division on November 29. An enquiry is still on to ascertain why the zoo-bred lions which had always lived in captivity behaved so aggressively.
The Mahuva police inspector said that the victim’s body has been sent to Sir Takhtasinhji General Hospital in Bhavnagar for an autopsy.