The Gujarat High Court on Monday said experts should decide if all lions in the state’s Gir sanctuary required vaccination to prevent the outbreak of canine distemper virus, PTI reported. As many as 23 lions have died in the forest over the last month and scientists said at least 21 others have been infected with the virus.
During the hearing, the state government informed the bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice VM Pancholi that lions as well as cattle and dogs were vaccinated after the outbreak in September.
After amicus curiae Hemang Shah told the court that all lions living in the forest should be vaccinated, the court observed that experts should decide on the matter, and reserved its order for Wednesday.
The court is hearing two petitions, one filed by wildlife activist Biren Pandya and a suo motu public interest litigation on the unnatural deaths of lions due to electrocution and falling into open wells.
The state government has asked three districts to submit reports on the matter of erecting parapet walls around open wells, the court was told. Even as the work of covering open wells was ongoing, the government did not provide a deadline for its completion. The court asked the state government to apprise it of the progress made on this every two months.
Amicus curiae Shah suggested that the state government suspend power supply to electric fences around farms to prevent further electrocution of lions. The lawyer added that criminal cases must be registered in the matter and the court should hear such cases on a daily basis.
The High Court on Monday also asked state authorities and the Centre to explain the huge difference in resources allocated for the conservation of lions and tigers, reported The Hindu. While a conservation budget of Rs 15 lakh has been allocated for each tiger, only Rs 95,000 is earmarked per lion.
Last month, both the Supreme Court and the High Court took note of the deaths of the 23 lions and sought a response from the Centre and the state government. Between September 12 and 19, officials had found carcasses of 11 lions in the Gir forest, prompting the state government to order an inquiry. Ten more lions, who were shifted to a rescue centre, died between September 20 and 30. Later, two more lions died in the forest, taking the total number of deaths since last month to 23.