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20 lions killed in two months. Babesiosis to be blamed?

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The death of 20 lions in Gir in the last two months, has raised questions about the outbreak of babesiosis among the wild cats. All the deaths happened in the Gir (east) wildlife division. A source in the know said that some of the cats were killed because of the disease caused by the blood protozoa ‘babesia’. Ticks are believed to be the carriers of this disease.

Chief Conservator of Forest DT Vasavada, however, denied the same. He said that the deaths were due to various reasons and in some samples babesia was observed.

The Gir (east) division covers Amreli, Gir Somnath and most of the deaths were from Tulsishyam, Jasadhar and Hadala range.

It should be noted that in September 2018, the outbreak of canine distemper virus (CDV) in Sarasiya range of Gir (east) had resulted in the death of over 23 lions. At that time an outbreak of babesiosis was also reported. Following the outbreak, the forest department had imported CDV vaccine from the US and vaccinated almost all lions in the Gir forest and other protected areas.

The last census had pegged the lion population in the state at 523, with Junagadh district alone accounting for 268 lions. Gujarat is the last abode of the Asiatic lions in the world.