Terming the mysterious death of 23 lions in the Gir forest as “very serious”, the Supreme Court Wednesday asked the Centre to look into the incidents which have sparked fear of a viral infection.
“Today, we are faced with a peculiar problem. Lions are dying. There seems to be some kind of virus. We do not know. It is coming in newspapers. You find it out,” a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur, S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta told told Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni.
The matter came up when the court was hearing a matter related to the re-introduction of cheetahs in India from Namibia.
Referring to the death of the 23 lions in the last three weeks, one counsel said, “if there is any kind of virus infection, all lions will be wiped out from the area.” He pointed out that given the manner in which the lions died, there was also a fear of the epidemic spreading to other animals.
Express Explained | What is killing the pride of Gujarat’s Gir?
The counsel for Gujarat government, meanwhile, said some of the deaths were due to a viral infection. The state added it was yet to identify the virus strain.
The court then asked the ASG, who appeared for the Centre, “What are you doing on the issue of lions?” and added, “it is very serious”.
The ASG replied that a matter related to lions in Gujarat was already pending in the apex court and assured the bench, “I will find out (about the deaths of lions)”.
The court will now hear the matter on October 29.
An application was filed in the SC by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, seeking a direction that SC’s 2013 decision rendered in a case does not prevent authorities from taking steps in conformity with the law to re-introduce cheetahs from Africa to suitable sites in India.
Four dead lions CDV-positive
Rajkot: A day after two more lions died and toll in Gir sanctuary rose to 23 in three weeks, the Gujarat government Wednesday confirmed presence of canine distemper virus (CDV) in four of them. State forest officials said they have sought help from international experts and CDV vaccines from the US were likely to be delivered in a day.
Additional Chief Secretary (Forest & Environment) Rajiv Gupta said samples of seven dead lions had revealed presence of babesia protozoal infection. “CDV did not cause the deaths. But it affects immunity of animals. Lions with CDV can also get infected by babesia protozoa. Attack of viral and protozoal infection can cause death.”