Virus spreads all the way to the death of lions at Gir: Govt to SC

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that spread of canine distemper virus, which led to the death of several lions in Gujarat's Gir sanctuary recently, was now "fully under control".

A bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur, S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta expressed concern over the deaths and questioned the "reluctance" in shifting lions from Gir to other places like Kuno wildlife sanctury in Madhya Pradesh.

"Several lions have died in Gir incident. Every forest has its limit. I do not know why there is reluctance in shifting lions to Kuno?" Justice Gupta observed.

The bench also observed that spread of such virus could led to wiping out of the entire breed if the lions would be placed at one place only.

Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, told the court that area under the Gir sanctuary have been increased and lions have been kept in pockets now to avoid any such incident.

During the hearing, the bench also took note of the recent incident in Odisha where seven elephants had died due to electrocution.

The bench was informed by an advocate that he would file an application regarding the Odisha incident matter which is pending before the apex court.

The Supreme Court also dealt with an application filed by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) which has sought its direction stating that the top court's 2013 decision rendered in a wildlife case does not prevent authorities from taking steps in conformity with law to re-introduce cheetahs from Africa to suitable sites in India.

The counsel appearing for NTCA told the bench that they have taken consent from International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an organisation working in the field of nature conservation, for re-location of cheetahs from Africa to India.

To this, the bench observed, "We have to be little cautious. We have had a problem in Gir. They are saying that it is under control now but the issue is why should such a problem has cropped up at all".

The bench asked both the Centre and NTCA to file their respective affidavits in the matter.

The apex court had earlier asked the Centre to look into the mysterious deaths of 23 lions in Gir amid fears that the wild cats could have died due to virus infection.

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