New Delhi : Two of the country's top courts have expressed worry and displeasure over the deaths of Asiatic lions at Gujarat's Gir Forest National Park.
At least 23 lions have died in Gir in the last 20 days, an unusual series of deaths that has forced the Gujarat Forest Department to undertake a massive survey in order to identify and treat sick lions.
Initially, forest officials said that most of the deaths were due to infighting among the big cats. While that theory hasn't been completely discounted, medical examinations of at least four lions have worryingly pointed to a yet-unidentified virus as the cause of some of the deaths.
Today, the Supreme Court and the Gujarat High Court both took note of deaths of lions in Gir. The Supreme Court said that issue was "extremely serious", and asked the Gujarat government and the Centre to find out the reason for the deaths and detail what preventive measures they plan to take.
The Gujarat High Court, in an observation made in a similar context, questioned if illegal lion shows, during which the big cats are fed chicken, could to be to blame for the animals falling prey to viral infections.
The high court made these observations while hearing a bail plea filed by a person accused of running an illegal lion show at the Gir Forest National Park.
The mystery over what is killing the lions in Gir still persists with authorities saying that the virus that killed at least four lions has not yet been identified.
Since September 12, a total of 21 lions have died in Gir. Seven lions were found dead in the wild while the remaining 16 died under medical treatment.
All these lions who died lived in the Sarasiya area of the Dalkhania range in the eastern section of the Gir sanctuary.