"Situation Under Control, There Won't Be Any Relocation" Gujarat CM After 23 Lions Die In A Month
On October 2, two more lions were found dead at the Gir forest in Gujarat, reportedly due to an infection. The number of lion deaths in last one month has now reached 23. Just two weeks back carcasses of 11 lions, including those cubs, were found in the Gir forest. It is being suspected that the deaths were caused due to infighting and infection. The reason for it was found to be Canine Distemper Virus (CVD). Even as there have been demands for the relocation of lions, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has said that the situation is under location and that there won’t be any relocation.
“There will not be any relocation”
CVD is the same virus which killed 1,000 Lions at Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park in 1994. Given how dangerous this virus is, several experts had urged the Gujarat government to relocate some of the lions to Kuno in Madhya Pradesh.
However, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, on October 7 told media persons in Bilkha in Junagadh district that lions were safe in Gujarat and there was no need to relocate them. As reported by DNA, CM Rupani said, “We are investigating the issue of the health of lions. A survey of the health of lions and its surrounding areas have been conducted, blood samples of the lions were also taken and the reports are negative. Hence there is no need to worry. Lions are safe in Gujarat and there will not be any relocation.”
He further added that the Gujarat government has adopted several measures like faster diagnosis and treatment to protect the lions and that the situation was under control.
Virus infection behind the lion deaths
Blood samples of the lions were sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune. While the virus was found in four cases, in six other samples sent to Veterinary College in Junagadh, traces of Protozoans which are usually spread by ticks were found on the body of lions, Livemint reported. Minister of State for Forest and Environment Ganpath Vasava confirmed to Livemint that the canine distemper virus (CVD) which is spread by dogs in the wild, was responsible for four of the 23 deaths.
In a step to avoid such deaths in the future, all of the 31 lions in the Samardi area have been rescued and sent to Jamwala Rescue centre. However, officials said that no virus or bacteria was reported from these rescued lions.
Supreme Court had also questioned Gujarat and central governments over the deaths. The bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur called it to be “extremely serious”.
Lions need to be relocated: Experts
Fearing that the same fate as that of the Serengeti National Park might await the lions of Gir forest, several experts have opined that it is best to move the lions to other habitats. Ravi Chellam, a conservation scientist told Livemint, “Such epidemics are like natural catastrophes that come without any forewarning. Translocation is good for lion conservation and one has to only follow the Supreme Court’s order to implement it.”
Notably, in 2013, the Supreme Court had ruled that Gujarat needed to relocate some of its lions to Kuno, Madhya Pradesh lest a disease might pose a grave risk to the entire lion population in the area. However, this ruling was not implemented. Climatic condition and possible conflict with the existing tigers in Kuno were given as the reasons. It is also to be noted that in 2009 when Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, he entered into a public spat with the then environment minister over the relocation of lions. Ramesh, who then said that it was important for genetic stability and health, Modi, however, refused to part with the “pride of Gujarat.”
Rajan Joshi, a wildlife conservationist even wrote to Gujarat Chief Minister last month. He underlined the urgent need for the lions to be relocated.
Gir forest, which is spread across 1,440 square kilometres, is the only abode of Asiatic lions in the world. It showed a 27% increase in lion population (523) in 2015 census as compared to 2010 (411).
The Logical Indian Take
It is a matter of grave concern that with 23 deaths in just a month, more than 4% of the total lion population has been wiped out. Initial tests and investigation point to the deadly CVD as one of the main reasons. As the lion population is increasing every year, their population density has also been on a rise. This has made it much easier for such communicable diseases and infections to pass from one lion to other.
Even after 2013 ruling by SC and persuasion by several experts, the authorities are yet to relocate the lions to alternate locations. The Logical Indian hopes that the concerned authorities take appropriate action at the earliest.