Guj HC to monitor steps taken to prevent lion deaths in Gir

The Gujarat High Court on Wednesday said it will monitor the progress on measures taken by the Gujarat government for safety and conservation of Asiatic lions in the Gir forest in the state.

A bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice V M Pancholi asked the state government to file periodic progress reports on construction of walls around open wells in the areas with lion population, and the measures taken to prevent lion deaths due to electrocution.

Falling into open wells and electrocution after coming in contact with electrified fences installed by farmers (for keeping animals away) are two common causes of lion deaths in Gir.

The high court also directed the state government to seek expert opinion about prevention of virus-related deaths among the big cats.

The reports are to be filed in three months, while the next hearing will be on January 16.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by wildlife activist Biren Pandya and another PIL seeking prevention of unnatural deaths of lions in the forests of Gir, the only abode of Asiatic lions.

The second PIL is a petition taken up by the court on its own after a report tabled in Gujarat Assembly said that 182 lions died in Gir in the last two years, a large number of them due to unnatural causes.

Earlier, the court had asked the Centre to explain why it has allocated only Rs 95,000 per animal for lion conservation, against Rs 15 lakh per animal for tigers. It has sought a report on the Centre’s long-term lion conservation plan.

On deaths of over 20 lions in Gir since September, many of them due to Canine Distemper Disease (CDD), the court said the government should seek expert opinion on whether all lions should be vaccinated against the CDD virus.

The government had said that only the lions and cattle in areas affected by the virus were vaccinated.

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