Gir sees 21 lion deaths in 19 days

Authorities attribute deaths to infighting, infection As many as 21 lions have died in Gujarat’s Gir forest since September 12, sending shockwaves through the only abode of Asiatic lions in the world. Government authorities have attributed the deaths to infighting and viral infection, prompting the State to bring in experts from Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Bareilly, and Delhi zoo. According to the State forest department, 11 lions died between September 12 and 19 in Gir’s Dalkhania and Jasadhar range. Of those 11 lions, carcasses of seven were found in the forest area, while four died during treatment. Later, between September 20 and 30, 10 more lions which were rescued from the Dalkhania range died during the treatment, taking the toll to 21 and making it the worst such tragedy in Gir forest. “The post-mortem report of 11 lions that died between September 12 and 19 indicated infighting, injuries due to infighting, respiratory and hepatic failure as major causes for deaths,” said a statement issued by the forest department. Shifted to Jasadhar As a result, all lions in the affected range were shifted to Jasadhar rescue centre. They were thoroughly checked and samples collected from them were sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Veterinary College and Forensic Science Laboratory in Junagadh to ascertain their health condition. However, 10 more lions died during the treatment in the next 10 days. The authorities sent their blood and tissue samples to the laboratories for testing. “As per the reports received from NIV, Pune, viruses were found in four cases, whereas traces of protozoans, which is spread by ticks found in the body of lions, were found in six samples sent to Veterinary College in Junagadh,” the statement added, admitting viral infection as the cause of deaths of the lions in the region. The forest department, however, has stressed that the infection is limited to the lions of Samardi forest area only.

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