As many as 204 lions have died in Gujarat’s Gir forest region in just last two years, the state government informed the legislative Assembly on Friday. Out of these, 177 lions died due to natural causes while 27 (21 lion and 6 cubs) died of unnatural causes such as getting hit by a train or falling into a well, it said.
In a written reply to Congress MLA Bhagabhai Barad, forest minister Ganpat Vasava informed that 110 lions and 94 cubs died in 2017 and 2018. Of the 110 adult lions, 43 died in 2017 and 67 in 2018 while thirty-eight cubs died in 2017 and 56 in 2018.
In all, 34 lions were lost to disease outbreaks, of which CDV (Canine Distemper Virus) and babesiosis were most deadly, claiming 27 lives.
To make the region safer for the beasts, government has taken several preventive measures which includes building parapets around wells, fencing railway tracks, construction of speed breakers on roads passing through sanctuaries and continuous patrolling, the reply said.
Meanwhile, activists have expressed concern over the high mortality rate of the lions in the region. Speaking with The Times of India, Mr AJT Johnsingh, the ex-dean of Wildlife Institute of India said, “The figure is high considering the fact that majority births in Gujarat is due to in-breeding. This exposes lions to a high risk of disease outbreak. …” He stressed the need to protect lions from a complete wipe-out in case of a major disease outbreak.
The state government allocated Rs 21.96 crore for lion conservation in Gir in 2017, and Rs 27.89 crore in 2018, while the contribution of the Union government was Rs 1.92 crore and 1.06 crore for the last two years.