As many as six of the 11 Asiatic lions found dead during the last eleven days in their only abode, Gir forests, died fighting among themselves, according to Gujarat Forest Department officials. The cause of death of the other five is yet to be ascertained.
Five other lions, who were injured in the in-fighting, were rescued and moved away from the others.
All the carcasses were found in Dalkhania and Jasadhar range in the heart of the Gir lion sanctuary in a decomposed state. It took time for a team of forest officials, who rushed to the spot, to even identify their gender.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) G K Sinha said, “A male lion carcass was found on September 12. It died following respiratory and hepatic failure, caused during infighting. The next day, a lioness was found which too had died from the same cause.”
He said carcasses of three lion cubs were found on September 15 and the injury marks on their bodies suggest they were killed by a male lion belonging to another pride.
Another lioness was found dead on September 17 and officials believe the death was a result of respiratory failure, again caused during in-fighting.
On the very next day, two cubs, a lion and a lioness, were found dead. The cause of death of cubs was yet to be ascertained, Sinha said.
Another body of a lion was also found in a decomposed state on September 19 and the cause of death was not known.
“We are waiting for the post-mortem reports of the lion and lioness, which we should get by Friday. These bodies were found in the Dalkhania range (nine) as well as Jasadhar range,” Sinha said.
“We have rescued five lions hurt in infighting and have placed them under observation in Sarasia Vidi (grassland). This will curb the in-flighting,” the official said.
Sinha said the entire area would be screened for any infection or traces of epidemic. The forest staff would be checking the cattle too in the area for infection,” said Sinha.
The forest department found micro chip embedded in only one of the lions found dead. “While from the rescued lions, we found chips in a male and a female. The other two rescued lionesses and a lion did not have a chip,” the PCCF said.
The forest department tags the animals with micro chips whenever they are rescued to keep a tab on them through the GPS system.
The state forest department carries out a census of lions every five years. The 2005 survey counted 359 lions in the Gir sanctuary and adjoining areas, while the number grew to 411 in 2010. The latest census in 2015 found 523 lions, 109 of which were male, 201 female, 140 were cubs and 73 sub-adults.
According to the forest department, lions produce around 210 cubs every year, out of which 140 die of natural and unnatural causes and the remaining one third attain adulthood.