A video taken inside the core area of the Sasan Gir National Park is making huge rounds across the social media platforms. In video it can be seen that a master or probably local villager feeding on a live hen like a domesticated animal. The entire incident was recorded when it took place in Gujarat where a person can be seen clearly teasing the lioness with live chicken. Lioness made two to three attempts in order to snatch the live flesh and finally took away the hen. Rest is here in the video.
A deadly epidemic may be wiping out the world’s last few Asiatic lions.
In the past one month alone, at least 23 of the big cats have died in the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park in the western Indian state of Gujarat. These deaths include those of three cubs and three adult females.
Initially, forest officials suspected some of these deaths to have occurred in a territorial battle. “This is a natural course of action among lions,” Gir forest official GK Sinha had said. Three adult male lions from another area entered the forest in September and killed the cubs in an incident of infighting, Sinha had said.
However, tests conducted at the Indian Council of Medical Research’s National Institute of Virology, Pune, have officially confirmed the presence of the deadly canine distemper virus (CDV) in at least four of the tissue samples extracted from the carcasses.
“CDV is extremely infective (sic). In Serengeti (national park in Tanzania) it killed a 1,000 lions in three weeks. 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,” Ravi Chellam, a conservation scientist, told the Mint newspaper.
Environmentalists believe scavenging for food and sharing space with feral dogs has lead to the spread of CDV.
While the lion population has jumped from 411 in 2010 to 523 in 2015, and then to 600 lions by now, Gir’s 1,621 square kilometre area has remained constant. That leaves a decreasing amount of area per lion.
In the meantime, listed as a “critically endangered” species in 2000, the Asiatic lion’s status was upgraded to just “endangered” in 2008 after its numbers increased.
Emails to the ministry of environment, forest, and climate change and to the forest department of Gujarat remained unanswered.
Foreseeing such mass deaths, the supreme court of India had, more than five years ago, ordered the shifting of some lions from Gujarat to Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh to keep them safe from such epidemics.
The Gujarat government on Tuesday said canine distemper may have been responsible for the death of four lions even as two more deaths were reported in Gir, taking the death toll to 23 since September 12.
“While advance reports from various laboratories are awaited, in four cases, canine distemper virus is suspected to be the cause,” said forest minister Ganpat Vasava. Canine distemper is a viral disease that impacts a large number of wild animals including cats and dogs. The two lions that died on Tuesday were shifted from Semerdi in Dalkhania range in the eastern part of Gir to Jasapar rescue centre after 11 lions from the same area died between September 12 and 19.
The forest department said at the time of announcing the 11 deaths that infighting and infection were responsible for the deaths. Between September 20 and 30, another 10 lions died while receiving treatment.
The minister said one of the lions might have caught the virus and infected others in the same area. “We have isolated all lions from Semerdi area. A survey in all the others parts of Gir, including the national park and Gir West, has been done and they (lions) are clean and safe,’’ said the chief conservator of forest, Jungadh wildlife division Dushyant Vasavada.
According to forest department officials, all the lions lost were in Gir East, a neglected region in this last adobe of Asiatic Lions. The other two divisions of Gir are Gir West and the National Park; the latter two are the preferred destination of tourists and national and international big cat experts.
“Sasan Gir is the headquarters of Gir forest and it has the national park so it is in the focus and closely monitored. Five lakh tourists who annually come for safari go to Sasan and Devaliya Interpretation Zone that are over 50 km away from Dalkhaniya range where all the causalities have happened ,” said Bhika Jethava, president of the Lion Nature Foundation, an NGO working for conservation of the big cats. Razak Bloch, president of the Gujarat State Save Environment Committee, agreed and said : “It often takes a day or two for the rescue team to respond to any distress call given by locals in connection with lion injury or death in the eastern region.” Jethava said the forest department acknowledged a carcass of a lioness in the eastern part 24 hours after they were informed on September 24.