Ahmed Patel seeks Centre’s intervention on Gir lions’ death

New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel on Saturday expressed his concern over the recent deaths of lions in Gujarat’s Gir forest and wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to take necessary steps in order to prevent the unnatural deaths.

In his letter, Patel blamed the Gujarat government for not doing enough in order to prevent wild animals from falling into the trap of death.

“I am writing regarding a large number of lion deaths at the Gir National Park in Gujarat. More than 23 of them have died in the last three weeks and over 180 have expired since 2016. The Gir Lion is the pride of Gujarat but unfortunately, their large-scale deaths are a manifestation of negligence. The reasons for their deaths have not occurred overnight but are a result of the state government’s prolonged mismanagement and poor oversight,” he wrote in a letter.

The senior Congress leader also suggested certain measures to save the existing population of lion.

“The width of the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) should extend up to 10 kilometres from the protected area. In Gujarat, the ESZ extends only up to 0.5 kilometres. This has caused unwarranted interference in the ecosystem of the lions. The Centre in consultation with the state government can consider revising the ESZ for Gir National Park,” he said.

“There must be a fine balance between promoting tourism and conserving wildlife. The expanding dog menace and uncontrolled growth of resorts near the sanctuary have become a serious threat for the survival of the lions. The government must show the willingness to end such illegal resorts, irrespective of their ownership,” he added.

Patel also urged the central government to make immediate investments for providing better medical facilities for the lions.

“While on one hand we have a thriving pharmaceutical industry and the government speaks about Make in India, and on the other hand, the forest department is forced to import vaccines from America. There is a huge shortage of both medicines and trained veterinary doctors in the national park. There is not a single intensive care ambulance for the lions at Gir. The government can consider introducing training programs for lion conservation and allocating adequate budget for research towards their conservation, ” he said.

“I appeal to the Government of India to not neglect the lions of Gujarat and treat them with the same importance given to tigers. The government can consider to create a Rs 1000 crore fund for the conservation of the Gir Lion and launch a national level program on the lines of Project Tiger,” the Congress leader added.

A total of 21 Asiatic lions have died within a span of one month in Gir Forest in Gujarat. Unidentified infection in kidney and liver and internal fights between the lions are stated to be the main cause of death.

Gir forest is the only natural habitat for the Asiatic lions. In 2015, a total of 523 lions were residing in the dense forest.