31 October, 2020

A Commoner's Death

As two lions die of a rabies-like disease, concerns of an epidemic worry wildlife officials

A Commoner's Death

NOTHING equals the thrill of encountering the Asiatic lion in the wild. With his bristling mane and glinting eyes, he is the indisputable king of the jungle.

So it's no surprise that the recent news of lion deaths brought the media flocking to Gujarat's Gir forest. At least one lion has died of an unidentified ailment. At present, there's scant evidence to suggest an epidemic. But then this is Gir - the only home for the wild Asiatic lion on the planet. So no one's leaving any stone unturned.

Lions die. Forest officials hastily point out that every lion death is not unnatural; Gir has a population of 304 lions - as per the '95 census - and a death rate of about 15 lions a year. Wildlife experts like Valmik Thapar put the deaths at 30-45 lions a year. "Lions die all the time," says he. "It's not a cause for concern as in the wild, male lions fight each other and kill the cubs." So when the first lioness died on June 4, it wasn't exactly breaking news; she was 17 (average life span being 15 years). On June 20, a one-and-a-half year old female cub died...



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