Two Maldharis (herdsmen) were arrested by forest department late on Thursday for allegedly poisoning two sub-adult lionesses in Lakhapadar village of Amreli district. A local court in Dhari sent the accused to judicial custody on Friday after the forest department did not seek their remand. Carcass of a sub-adult lioness was recovered from government wasteland in Lakhapadar village of Dhari taluka of Amreli on Wednesday afternoon. Less than 24 hours later, carcass of another sub-adult lioness was recovered from the same area on Thursday. Forest officers said the sub-adult lionesses were around 2.5 year old and were sisters.
Forest officers said four hours after recovery of the second carcass, two maldharis were arrested. They have been identified as Sangram Gamara (30) and Manga Sadhu (40), both residents of Nagadhra village adjoining Lakhapadar. “The accused are rearing goats. After a pride consisting of a lioness and her two cubs preyed on two of their goats, the accused poured pesticide on their carcasses. But the lion pride ate their kill even after it was poisoned, leading to their deaths,” chief conservator of forests (CCF) of Junagadh wildlife circle, Anirudhh Pratap Singh told The Indian Express on Friday.
Lakhapadar falls in Sarasiya range of Gir (east) forest division under Junagadh wildlife circle. Singh said that the carcasses were found from government wasteland between Lakhapadar and Nagadhra villages.
“While we are awaiting laboratory tests ascertaining the exact cause of deaths of the two lionesses, prima facie, they died due to poisoning. We have also recovered the bottle of pesticide used in the crime. We fear the mother lioness could also have been affected by the poison. Our staff is searching for her,” Singh further said.
Asiatic lions are an endangered species and Gir forest and other protected areas spread across Junagadh, Amreli, Gir Somnath and Bhavnagar districts in Saurashtra region of Gujarat are their only natural home in the world. Asiatic lions have been included in Schedule-I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act and their hunting can attract seven years imprisonment.
The accused were produced in a local court in Dhari on Friday. After the forest department did not seek their remand, the duo were sent to judicial custody.
“The accused have confessed to have poured pesticide on the two goats hunted by lions. They are claiming that they poisoned the lions as the big cats had killed their 36 goats in recent months. Since they confessed their crime, we did not seek their remand. Therefore, the court sent them to judicial custody,” the CCF further added.