Alleging that the Gujarat government’s lax attitude led to the death of 23 lions in Gir forest, Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Paresh Dhanani on Thursday sought explanation from Chief Minister Vijay Rupani on this “man-made tragedy”.
In a letter written to Mr Rupani on the issue, Mr Dhanani sought action against those responsible for not devising a proactive action plan to deal with Canine Distemper Virus (CDV), believed to be the main reason for the deaths.
He alleged that although the government knew that the disease has killed a large number of lions in Africa in the past, the vaccine for CDV, which was imported at the last moment, was not brought in advance.
“The government knew that a vaccine is available to deal with CDV. However, we imported it (from the US) only after 23 lions succumbed to the infection. Such last minute arrangement led to this man-made tragedy. Why didn’t we bring the vaccine well in advance?” asked Mr Dhanani in the letter.
“Lions could have been saved had the vaccine been made available well in advance. I firmly believe that action must be taken against those who were responsible for this man-made tragedy,” the Congress leader said.
He asked Mr Rupani to probe whether the unavailability of vaccine was a “conspiracy”.
Referring to the provisions enlisted in the Gir Management Plan for conservation of lions, Mr Dhanani alleged that senior forest officials are not carrying out their duty properly.
He claimed that the plan mandates that officials need to walk inside the protected forests for at least 50 kms in a month.
“In reality, officials hardly follow this provision of conducting foot patrolling. They only roam around in vehicles. As a result, health status of lions living inside deep forest is not known immediately,” Mr Dhanani claimed.
Referring to a 2013 Supreme Court judgment asking the state government to find a new home for lions, Mr Dhanani asked Mr Rupani what steps his government had taken since then in that regard.
He alleged that the state government had only given assurances to the Supreme Court, but failed to undertake any concrete step to save the lions.
Earlier, the state government had admitted that CDV and Protozoa infection is responsible for the death of at least 11 of 23 lions in Gir forest last month.