21 lions have died in Gir in the last 18 days alone including the seven lions rescued from Gujarat’s Gir forest died while undergoing treatment at a rescue centre. The rising number of lion deaths in the national park in such a short span of time is a cause of worry for forest officials and conservationists.
The state government said while conceding that some deaths were due to a virus attack. The government officials said they are yet to identify the type of virus responsible for the deaths of some big cats in the only abode of Asiatic lions in the world.
As an immediate measure, Gir authorities have moved 31 lions to an animal care centre and have kept them in isolation.
The senior officer Dushyant Vasavda, Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) in Junagarh said, “No lions were found dead in any other area, 31 lions from Samardi area have been rescued and kept in isolation. Their check-up is being done. We are taking all preventive measures.”
Around 100 lions die annually, with the death rate peaking during monsoon. On an average, 31 to 32 lions in Gir die during the three months of monsoon every year, the Forest Department said.
During the ongoing screening drive to identify and rescue all the sick and injured lions in the forest, the department has found that the lion population has now gone up to 600, much higher than 523 lions counted in the last census of 2015.