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Gujarat Forest, Environment department segregates 33 lions, sends virus sample for tests

At least 23 lions have died in Gujarat's Gir National Park.

Gujarat Forest, Environment department segregates 33 lions, sends virus sample for tests
Image Courtesy: ANI

The Gujarat Forest and Environment department has segregated 33 lions and termed them as a priority after 23 lions died as of Wednesday at Gujarat's Gir National Park, Additional Chief Secretary of the department confirmed.

The department has also contacted National Institute of Virology in Pune and sent samples of virus found in the carcasses for testing, news agency ANI reported. 

The Secretary also said that the department has contacted the teams from Delhi zoo, Etawah zoo and Indian Veterinary Research Institute in Bareilly.

The three lions have been kept separately as they were part of the group which died earlier. 

"The 33 are completely out of danger but we've kept them under observation. Group of 3 lions is part of the group many of which died earlier. So far they're okay," the Secretary confirmed.

Earlier on Wednesday the Supreme Court had expressed concern over the death of lions in Gir forest of Gujarat and questioned the Centre and the state government.

The apex court said it is an extremely serious issue and the government must find out the reason for the deaths of the lions and the animals must be protected.

Replying to the SC, the Centre sought time to look into the matter and come back with a reply. The Gujarat government also assured that all necessary action will be taken soon. 

At least 23 lions have died in the last 18 days in Gir Sanctuary since September 12, an official said.

Eleven lions had died in the forest due to reasons such as infighting and infections between September 12 and 19, while 10 more died between September 20 and 30 after they were shifted to a rescue centre. 

Earlier on Tuesday, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani termed the deaths as "very unfortunate". "It was a very unfortunate incident. 20-22 lions inhibiting in one forest range have died due to infection. To make sure that other lions are alright, we have called in doctors from Delhi and Pune to examine them," said Rupani in Porbandar. "We are also probing whether the officers who have the responsibility of that range have shown carelessness," he said.

The forest department had said on Monday that four of the dead lions were found to have a virus infection, while another six were infected with a Protozoa-class organism carried by ticks. All these lions lived in Sarasiya area of the Dalkhania range of Gir Sanctuary, officials said.

The department launched a screening operation in the range to identify sick lions following the death of 11 lions between September 11 and 19. However, 12 sick lions, which were caught and shifted to a rescue centre, have died since then.

The virus found in the carcasses of these animals has not yet been identified, as per the officials. 

(With Agency Inputs)