Wildlife experts from the Lion Breeding Centre and Multiple Safari (LBCMS) Park in Etawah, also known as Etawah Lion Safari, have expressed willingness to probe the deaths of Asiatic lions in Gujarat’s Gir Forest National Park.
In 2018 also, the Etawah Lion Safari had helped out the Gir national park.
“We are more than willing to assist the Gir Forest National Park by probing the death of such a large number of Asiatic lions. It has been reported that in the past five months, more than 80 lions have died due to various reasons,” said VK Singh, director LBCMS Park.
Singh, who suspects canine distemper one of the possible reasons behind the frequent deaths, said they have a reserve of around 150 vials of the CDV vaccine, which they can offer to the Gir park.
The Etawah Lion Safari has been populated with lions that were brought from Gir. Singh said the LBCMS Park has over the years gained expertise in administering the CDV vaccine, which is rare and not available anywhere in the country.
Samajwadi Party chief and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s dream project, the Etawah Lion Safari first saw the usage of CDV vaccine in 2016 after the safari witnessed deaths of five lions between 2014 and 2016 due to canine distemper.
“In a probe, it was found that the lions died of canine distemper which, until then, was believed to affect only dogs. Hence, we got the vaccine C-DV Ferret from San Diego zoo in the US and administered it to the lions,” said Singh.
The director further said, “This vaccine is rare. We import it from the US. We are the only body in India to have CDV vaccine. Also there is a certain technique through which this vaccine is administered and over the years, we have gained expertise in administering the vaccine. No deaths have been reported at the lion safari since then.”
At present the Etawah Lion Safari has 18 Asiatic lions — 7 were born at the safari itself.
Lion safari officials said in 2018 they had assisted them in probing the deaths of a large number of Asiatic lions and had also provided the Gir national park with 200 vials of CDV vaccine.
“It was after they (Gir park) approached us that we had sent an expert and 200 vials of vaccine to administer to the lions. Back then, the park witnessed the deathof around 85 lions, of which 59 died of canine distemper virus infection,” Singh said.
On Friday Akhilesh Yadav took to Twitter to express concern over the frequent deaths of lions in Gujarat in the past five months.
“During our time, the Etawah Lion Safari became virus free. The first Asiatic Lion Breeding and Research facility was set up and it developed the vaccine for canine distemper virus. We have lots of vaccines which we would like to offer to Gir National Park to help save their lions,” he said in his tweet.
He also shared a photo of lions with a caption — 85 lions have died in the past five months in Gir forest. Is it because of canine distemper virus?
Officials at the Gir national park could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.
Being the lone agency to have the canine distemper virus vaccine, Singh said the Lion Safari also sends CDV vaccines to Kolkata, Darjeeling, Chandigarh and Guwahati zoos. In the last financial year, the Etawah Lion Safari has distributed around 1,000 vials of the vaccine.