Gir loses 23 lions in 21 days

Gujarat’s Asiatic lions are in grave danger and on stake is the pride of the state and central governments. A deadly combination of Canine Distemper Virus and Protozoan infection has killed at least 11 of the 23 lions in Dalkhaniya range of Gir East in just 21 days. Gujarat is the only abode of these lions in Asia and it has been losing them at an alarming rate, causing even the Supreme Court and the Gujarat High Court to express their concern.

Three of the 36 lions that are currently under observation by the forest department are in critical condition, officials said.

As a precautionary measure, 300 shots of vaccine are being imported from the US to protect the lions of Gir. These are expected to arrive by October 5. On Wednesday, even the Supreme Court called the issue “extremely serious” and asked the Centre to look into the mysterious deaths of the 23 lions. On the other hand, Gujarat High Court, while rejecting a bail application filed by a man accused of running illegal lion show, questioned if feeding chicken to the big cats during the show could be the reason for the viral infection.

State Forest and Environment Minister Ganpat Vasava said Canine Distemper Virus was found in the samples of four of the 11 dead lions by Pune-based National Institute of Virology, and Protozoa in the rest seven. Canine distemper is a contagious viral disease that affects a wide variety of animal species.

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