Three people were injured in an attack by lions inside Gir Interpretation Zone, Devaliya, popularly called Devaliya Safari Park, near tourist hub Sasan in Gir forest in Junagadh district on Thursday. Forest officers said the incident took place at around 11 am when lions suddenly attacked Rajnish Keshwala, a labourer inside the safari park. Sources said that since the two most experienced lion trackers were on leave, Keshwala was a standby for them. “Another labourer, identified as one Dinesh tried rescue Keshwala but lions attacked him also.
However, Dinesh Kacha managed to rush out and informed the staff. After being alerted, the staff rushed to the spot and launched a search for Keshwala. But they could recover only his body. In another most unfortunate event during the recovery of Keshwala’s body, lions attacked one of the foresters, identified as Meraman Bharda also,” Dushyant Vasavada, chief conservator of forests of Junagadh wildlife circle told The Indian Express.
Vasavada said that Kacha and Bhadra had been rushed to a hospital in Junagadh city for treatment. “While Bharda has sustained only minor injuries, this is an extremely rare event. We are trying to ascertain in what circumstances the lions attacked the labourers,” he said.
The CCF further added that after the incident, the forest department had closed the safari park for tourists. “As a precautionary measure, we have closed down the safari park for tourists immediately and it will remain closed till the time the lions remain aggressive,” said Vasavada.
Devaliya safari park is spread over 412 hectare inside Gir forest. The park is part of Gir (west) division and a chain-linked fencing separates it from the rest of the forest of Gir National Park and Sanctuary (GNPS). The safari park is around 13 km away from Sasan, the headquarters of GNPS. Sasan is known for its lion safaris inside the tourism zone within the GNPS. But the GNPS remains closed during five months of rainy season. To help people understand flora and fauna of Gir forest, Devaliya safari park was created and it remains open to tourists during all months of a year. The safari park is home to a pride of 10 captive Asiatic lions, leopards and herbivores like blue bulls (nilgais), spotted deer, sambar etc. Buses take tourists inside the safari park. From this year, the forest department has introduced fenced gypsies also for tourists to go on safari inside the safari park.
Asiatic lions are an endangered species. Gir forest is their only natural home in the world and tourists from world over come to Sasan and Devaliya to watch them. Lions rarely attack humans unless provoked.
Sources said that Keshwala was inside the safari park to know the location of lions so that tourists buses could be guided to that part of the park.