At least 14 lions were captured from Gujarat’s Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and shifted to Jasadhar care centre in the forest, after some cubs in a pride fell ill, a senior official from the state forest department said.
One of the sick lion cubs was infected with babesia, a protozoan parasite, while two others were found to be anaemic, chief conservator of forest of Junagadh Wildlife Circle DT Vasavada said.
Babesia, canine distemper virus (CDV), and other bacterial infections were responsible for the death of 34 lions in September 2018.
Refuting media reports that the 14 rescued lions may be infected with the deadly CDV, Vasavada said only four of the animals were sick, including a cub suffering from babesia infection, and clarified that reports of 10 lions dying of serious illnesses in Gir were false.
“I want to assure you that no lion has died due to CDV in recent times. I also disagree with the death figures. If a lion is sick, then we have to capture the entire pride and keep them together till we treat that lion,” he said.
A pride of 10 lions was captured to treat two sick cubs, one of which is anaemic and the other has contracted babesia, he said.
Forest staff has also captured another pride of three to treat a sick cub, said Vasavada, adding that the cub is also anaemic.
“A lioness was also rescued from the forest after she was found to be suffering from age-related ailments. In all, 14 lions were captured from Tulsishyam and Jasadhar range of Gir forest. Out of these, only four are sick,” he said.
The animals will be released after treatment, he added.
In February last year, the state government had informed the state Assembly that 34 lions had died in 2018 due to diseases including CDV, babesia, streptococcal bacteria and gram-negative bacilli infections.
As per the last census carried out in 2015, Gir forest had 523 lions, while the current estimates have put the count at 600.