Gujarat: Three Asiatic Lions Killed By Train; At Least 35 Deaths In Three Months
Three Asiatic lions were reportedly mowed down by a goods train in Borala village which is located in Gir forest in Gujarat’s Amreli district. The incident occurred on the night of December 17.
Three lions found dead
Reportedly, carcasses of the three big cats were found lying by the railway tracks the next morning. A goods train, headed for Pipavav port had hit three out of a group of six lions that were walking by the tracks.
The Hindu quoted D.T. Vasavada, Chief Conservator of Forest, Junagadh Wildlife circle as saying, “We will probe whether the train was moving at a high speed. We will also probe whether the forest staff or lion trackers failed to discharge their duties.” He added that stringent action will also be taken against those who are found to be guilty. Two lions and a lioness in the age group of 1.5-2-year-olds were found dead.
Most of the lions in the Amreli district are seen moving around in non-protected areas. D.T. Vasavada has said that three stretches near the railway tracks where the lions move the most have been fenced, however, regular movement of lions near the stretch where the incident had occurred was not seen.
Divisional commercial manager (DCM), Bhavnagar division reportedly said that the goods train was moving at a normal speed of 50 to 55km per hour.
Death of other lions at Gir
Gir forest, which is home to Asiatic lions have seen a large number of lion deaths over the past three months. Besides territorial infighting among other big cats, so far, 35 lions have lost their lives to Canine Distemper Virus and Protozoa infections. 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. CVD is the same virus which killed 1,000 Lions at Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park in 1994.
For the conservation of Asiatic lions, the Gujarat government has announced a package of Rs 351-crore in late November, which includes several new initiatives. The initiatives include building a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital in Sasan-Gir and creating a team of 120 veterinary doctors to treat lions and other wildlife.
Drones will be deployed to keep an eye on lions’ movements, Rs 80 crore will be spent on building as many as eight new rescue centres, 33 Rapid Response Teams will be deployed in the forest and 100 ‘trackers’ will be recruited to keep a watch over the lions, Forest Minister Ganpat Vasava said.
History of Lion deaths in and around Gir Forest
Earlier this year, on March 2018, the Gujarat Assembly, after being informed by State Forest Minister Ganpat Vasava, announced that 32 Asiatic Lions died due to “unnatural causes” in and around Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, over the last two years. These unnatural causes include falling into the well and being hit or run over by train. A total of 184 Asiatic lions died in 2016 -17, wherein 104 deaths occurred in 2016 and 80 deaths in 2017.
The Apex Court order to shift Asiatic Lions in 2013
In April 2013, Supreme Court ordered the shifting of limited Asiatic Lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary. It directed a 12-member expert committee to implement its order.
The court said that these lions are endangered species, and all efforts should be made to preserve them including their translocation in limited number to MP. However even years after this order by SC the translocation is delayed.