Lion poaching fear returns to haunt Gujarat

A strong possibility of lion poaching kept the Gujarat forest department on its toes after a cub was found ensnared in a trap and the person suspected to be involved was attacked by the lioness in Gir-Somnath district. The suspicion only grew stronger after the assaulted man first got admitted into Veraval hospital and later he fled from there.

In all, 56 people were detained from various places in Gir-Somnath, Junagadh and Bhavnagar districts and four, including the man attacked by the lioness, are being interrogated.

Forest officials got a message about a lion cub being injured by some unidentified person in Khambha village near the coastal town of Sutrapada. On reaching the spot, the team found that the cub’s leg was stuck in a trap that was made using an iron clamp. The cub was treated and sent to Sasan animal care centre.

Meanwhile, officials got to know that when the cub was stuck in the trap, a lioness had attacked one person near-by, but he somehow managed to escape with injuries in the abdomen.

The man, whose name was not revealed, got himself admitted in the Veraval Civil Hospital. However, before the forest officials could reach there, he fled the hospital. This only strengthened suspicion of poaching.

He was later nabbed near Vadala in Junagadh district and shifted to Junagadh Civil Hospital. Later in the day, 26 people including some women, who were travelling in a truck from Una to Sihor in Bhavnagar, were detained .

“On examining their mobile phones, it was found that they were in touch with these four people,” the officer said. Another 26 people who were staying in and around Sihor was also detained immediately.

Deputy conservator of forest, Junagadh, Sunil Berwal said: “We have detained four people and are interrogating them. We are hot on the trail of other members of the gang for which we are also taking support from the locals. We have asked people to alert the police or forest department if they find any unknown person in their area.”

Officials said they look like snake charmers hailing from Surendranagar who often move around in the forest area in search of small animals and medicinal plants.

The alleged poachers might have sniffed a chance as lions move around in revenue (non-protected) areas in this district and often spotted close to human habitations.

It was in 2007 when a gang of 17 including women from Madhya Pradesh were arrested by the CID crime unit. The police had found evidence of six lions being poached then.

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