Three people have died outside of a lion sanctuary in Gujarat, India, and officials have captured 18 lions of suspect. Essentially, these animals have been “arrested” until the killer lion can be identified. Forest officials look at the paw prints and the excrement of the animals to help narrow down the suspect. Wildlife expert Ruchi Dave said “The officials are also studying the animals’ behavior. Man eating lions usually get aggressive at the sight of a human being.” They currently believe they know which lion is the culprit, but they are waiting on additional tests to be positive.
The innocent will be released, and the guilty animal will spend the rest of his life behind bars (at a zoo).
At least six attacks on humans have occurred in the area, resulting in three deaths. All attacks have occurred in the area surrounding the Gir Sanctuary. The 445 square mile sanctuary is the only protected area for the Asiatic lions in the world, a critically endangered lion species. There are only about 500 Asiatic lions left in the wild, which makes the Gir Sanctuary and National Park one of the most important protected areas in Asia. However, with population numbers on the rise, the lions often wander outside of the sanctuary causing problems for both lion and human.
Former wildlife warden Govind Patel said that the sanctuary could only accommodate 270 lions, which is why so many are found outside the sanctuary. There have been discussions and court cases to help determine how to relocate some of the lions to other areas of the country, in order to not risk losing the entire population to disease or disaster. There has been reluctance in Gujarat to begin relocating groups of lions, however, with the recent attacks, the issue may become more pressing.
Gir Sanctuary does not have a designated space for tourists. However, an Interpretation Zone has been created, in order to reduce tourism accidents and to help increase conservation education in the area.
Photo Credit: Prashant Dayal, image shared from BBC