36 Gir lions under observation, Foresters yet to decide on rehabilitation

Deepika S

Ahmedabad, Nov 8: As many as 36 Asiatic lions that were rescued after a spate of deaths in Dalkhaniya range are still under observation and officers say they have not yet drawn any plans for their rehabilitation as they are treading an uncharted territory post the first major outbreak of the disease in Gir forest.

These 36 Asiatic lions have been in captivity in the three rescue centres for around six weeks now and are likely to continue to be there for the foreseeable future.

"As per the protocol, after giving the first dose of the vaccine, two booster doses have to be given for better efficacy of the vaccine. The first booster dose of the vaccine can be given three weeks after the first dose. The second booster dose has to be given three weeks after the first booster dose. The animals were given the first dose of vaccine on October 6 and 7. Subsequently, the first booster dose was given. But they are still under observation. Veterinarians will decide if and when to give the second booster," Vasavada told The Indian Express.

23 killled in 15 days

23 Asiatic lions had died in Sarasiya Vidi in Dalkhaniya range of Gir (east) forest division in Amreli district between September 12 and September 29. All the big cats that died had settled in Sarasiya Vidi, a 25 sq km forest patch in Dalkhaniya range.

The lions, an endangered species, are being vaccinated under intensive veterinary care and as per standard protocol.

Twenty-three lions have died in the Gir sanctuary, the last abode of the lions in the country, less than a month. Most of them succumbed to the Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) and protozoan infection.

CDV is considered a dangerous virus and is blamed for wiping out 30 per cent of lions in East African forests.

Preventive steps

Following the death of big cats, the Forest Department had captured 36 lions and shifted them to Jashadhar and Jamwala rescue centres in the Gir forest.

After the CDV spread was confirmed in Asiatic lions, the State government urgently imported 300 shots of the vaccine from the US.

CDV is mainly found in wild dogs, jackals and wolves. The disease can be contracted by lions if they eat any animal infected by it.

It is a highly contagious virus that attacks the immune system and other vital organs. In most cases, the infection is fatal.

According to the last census conducted in 2015, the number of lions in the Gir sanctuary stood at 523.

The Gir sanctuary falls under the Junagadha district Forest Department's jurisdiction.

Rescued lions doing fine

At least 36 lions, who were rescued from Gujarat's Gir Sanctuary are doing fine but will kept under observation for some more time, a senior official said.

"The lions have been under observation of experts since September-end and are doing fine," Chief Conservator of Forests, Junagadh, Dushyant Vasavada said.

He said the felines were being administered booster doses of a vaccine at an interval of three weeks.

Not a matter of pride

300 - shots of vaccine against Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) believed to have caused the deaths

36 - Adult lions which were shifted to rescue centres are now stable in the Gir forest, said a forest department official

Since Sept 12

23 lions died in the sanctuary

11 of them died due to CDV and Protozoa infections

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