222 lions died in Gir in 2 years: foresters not alarmed

222 lions died in Gir in 2 years: foresters not alarmed

In the past two years, 222 Asiatic lions have died in their abode in Gir forest region. AFP file photo

In the past two years, 222 Asiatic lions have died in their abode in Gir forest region. The main reasons behind these deaths are said to be natural causes but a significant number of lions have died due to several diseases and accidents like falling in wells that don't have parapet walls, run over by trains, electrocution among others.

These figures were revealed by the government in Gujarat assembly while answering questions from the Congress MLAs.

On Tuesday, in a written reply to a query raised by Congress MLA Shailesh Parmar, Forest Minister Ganpat Vasava stated that from June 2017 to May 2018 a total of 82 lions that included 30 cubs, died, while from 2018 to 2019, the forest department recorded 140 deaths, including 60 cubs. According to Vasava, 199 deaths were reported due to natural causes, such as infection and other diseases while 23 lions died due to unnatural causes like falling in the wells, electrocution among other reasons.

Earlier this month, the state government had responded in the assembly that between 2013 to 2018, 413 lions died that included 154 cubs.

When contacted, Dushyant T Vasavada, chief conservator of forests, Junagadh wildlife circle, that covers Gir forest and other protected forest spread in Junagadh, Amreli, Gir-Somnath district among others, said, "The high number of death is reported due to the low mortality rate of lion cubs. On average, we record 90 deaths per year that is why the number looks big. But, there is nothing alarming."

A forest officer in Gandhinagar said: "Although the situation is not alarming as on today, there is a need to monitor their behaviour closely. We hope that our initiative of radio-collaring lions will improve the situation. We are monitoring their movements and waiting for a pattern to understand why so many deaths are occurring."

The last lion census held in 2015 had recorded over 523 Asiatic lions in the forest. According to officers, the census number and subsequent deaths of lions should not be connected as over the years, the population of lions has equally increased.