MORE THAN two weeks after a female Asiatic lion was allegedly electrocuted in Visavadar range in Gir (west) wildlife division, forest department probe has made no progress even as officers claim that her two cubs have been rescued as a precautionary measure.
The lioness was found dead in a forest patch in revenue area of Rajapara beat in Visavadar range in Junagadh district on July 24.
After performing an autopsy on the animal’s carcass, veterinarians had prima facie concluded that the lioness, which was five to nine-year-old, was electrocuted. The forest department has registered a case in this connection but investigation has not progressed. “We have written to the Paschim Gujarat Vij Company Limited (PGVCL) seeking details of any line tripping on that day in the area. But so far, there has been no breakthrough in the probe,” an officer told The Indian Express.
Forest officers say that the forest patch in which the lioness was found dead is skirted by agricultural fields.
Farmers in Visavadar complain of wild ungulates like wild boars and nil gai (blue bulls) raiding their standing crops.
To keep such herbivores at bay, some farmers erect a live electric wire round their fields. When animals come in contact with such live wires, they are electrocuted. However, officers said that they had no lead of the lioness having experienced electric shock on an agricultural field.
While the probe in the lioness’ death meanders, sources claim that canine distemper virus (CDV), which has been claiming Asiatic lions in Gir (east) for the past few months and more recently in Shetrunji wildlife division, has spread to Visavadar also and that a few animals have been rescued after they were suspected to have contracted the infection. But Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) of Junagadh wildlife circle, Dushyant Vasavada denied the claims as “rumours”.
“This rumour has started after we rescued cubs of the lioness which was electrocuted. These claims are baseless. There is no CDV in Visavadar. If it was there, there would have been deaths. But there has not been any deaths,” Vasavada said.
However, sources say that local officers have no information about any cubs having been rescued. “We are not even sure if the lioness had cubs,” they said.
Incidentally, seven farmers were arrested by the forest department after an Asiatic lion was electrocuted on an agricultural farm in Moti Monpari village of Visavadar taluka in 2013, but the accused allegedly tried to cover up the incident by dumping the carnivore’s carcass in a nearby river.