25 lions died of unnatural causes in a year after census
15 March 2017

India: The number of Asiatic lions that have died due to unnatural causes like electrocution and drowning in wells has shot up significantly in Saurashtra.

The damning numbers have been revealed in official data procured using Right to Information (RTI) tool.The data shows that of the 95 lions that died between April 2015 and March 2016, 25 died of unnatural causes. Lion experts and wild life activists have expressed concern over the steep increase. In the same period in 2014-2015, 13 lions had died of such causes. Moreover, these deaths have come in the period after the lion census conducted in 2015 revealed that there 523 Asiatic lions in four districts of Saurashtra. The RTI was filed by former Army jawan-turned-environment crusader Bhagvan Solanki of Lodhva village of Gir-Somnath district. What is worrisome is that all the 25 unnatural deaths happened on the fringes of Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and outside the protected areas. This shows how vulnerable the lions are outside Gir," Army jawan-turned-environment crusader Bhagvan Solanki of Lodhva village of Gir-Somnath district said.

In some cases, the exact cause of unnatural deaths could not even be ascertained as the carcasses were completely decomposed. According to sources in the forest department, at least 67 lions have died between April 2016 and March 2017, which means that after the census, 170 lions have died in Saurashtra.

"The numbers are alarming and government must immediately declare government wasteland, vidis (government grassland) and reserve forests outside Gir sanctuary as protected areas to save lions," said Biren Padhya, an activist who has filed multiple PILs in Gujarat high court for forests and lions' protection.

(Source: Times of India)

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