The Gujarat High Court Wednesday directed the state government to submit a report on October 8 about the steps being undertaken to prevent the death of lions due to unnatural causes.
A division bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice V M Pancholi was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by one Biren Pandya in 2016 over death of a lion due to electrocution in the Gir forest and the government’s response on deaths of 184 lions in the last two years.
The high court had taken a suo motu (on its own) cognisance of death of 184 lions and issued notices to the state and central government in May this year.
The high court Wednesday directed the government to submit a detailed statistics on October 8 on steps taken by it to control death of lions due to unnatural causes.
Meanwhile, the bench told the government to submit a brief report next Monday on the measures undertaken to control the death of lions due to virus, after it was told that a virus infection was the cause behind the death of lions in the Gir forest.
A total of 23 big cats have died in the Gir sanctuary in the last few days.
According to forest officials, at least 11 of 23 big cats died due to a deadly combination of Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) and Protozoal infection.
The government told the high court that it was probing the spread of the infection among lions and finding ways to check it.
The high court had earlier directed the state government to take steps to prevent the lion deaths due to causes like electrocution, falling into wells, getting run over by trains or vehicles, among other reasons.
The high court had ordered the government to prepare a time-bound schedule to cover all wells in the forest areas, to which the government had said in its affidavit that the work will be completed by December next year.
The government had also submitted a report based on inputs from an expert committee which was formed on the court’s order for framing the guidelines to prevent death of lions.
Lawyer Nandish Thackar, arguing for petitioner Biren Pandya, submitted that the government should instead approach farmers owning wells rather than waiting for the people to come forward, in order to expedite the process.
The state government had told the Legislative Assembly in March this year that 184 lions had died in 2016 and 2017, of which 32 died of ‘unnatural’ causes.
Further, as many as 23 lions died in last few days, mainly due to a deadly virus, the government said Wednesday.
According to a 2015 census, Gir is home to 523 lions, including 109 male, 201 female, 73 sub-adults and 140 cubs.