The mysterious deaths of 23 lions in Gujarat’s Gir sanctuary in the past three weeks has gained attention from the authorities. The Supreme Court probed the Centre on Wednesday to inquire into the matter amid fears that the wild cats could have died due to virus infection.
"Today, we are faced with a peculiar problem. Lions are dying. There seems to be some kind of virus. We do not know. It is coming in newspapers. You find it out," a bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur told Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, who was appearing for the Centre.
The bench of justices, S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta, was informed that in all 23 lies have died in the past three weeks. Wistfully, the sanctuary is the only abode of Asiatic Lions in the world.
Advocate Ritwick Dutta asserted to the bench that if there is any kind of virus infection, it will endanger the remaining cats, which will eventually wipe out all the lions from the area. The bench was hearing a matter related to the re-introduction of cheetahs in India from Namibia in Africa.
The council even suggested that the way in which the lions have died, there is a fear hanging on other animals too of the epidemic spreading among them.
The Gujarat government Monday said some of the lions died due to a virus infection. It said it was yet to identify the type of virus that led to the deaths.
An application was filed in the top court by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), seeking a direction that the court's 2013 decision rendered in a wildlife case does not prevent authorities from taking steps in conformity with the law to re-introduce cheetahs from Africa to suitable sites in India.
The bench questioned the ASG about the deaths of lions in Gir sanctuary. “What are you doing on the issue of lions? It is very serious,” probed the bench.
The ASG informed the court that a matter related to lions in Gujarat was already pending in the Supreme Court. He affirmed that he will inquire about the deaths of lions.
During the hearing, NTCA's counsel said they have complied with the requirements of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an organisation working in the field of nature conservation, for the relocation of cheetahs from Africa to India.
The bench, however, asked the council whether they have taken the consent of the IUCN in this regard.
"You want to re-introduce cheetahs from Namibia. There is a process. IUCN is involved in the process. You are saying that you have complied with the process laid down by IUCN. Has IUCN said that you have complied with it and they have no objection?" the bench asked.
NTCA's counsel said that he would take instructions in this regard whether IUCN has given consent for re-location of Cheetahs from Namibia to India.
The bench has posted the matter for hearing on October 29.