FORESTRY officials in western India may have identified the man-eating lion suspected of a spate of attacks, they said last Wednesday (15), after finding traces of human hair and tissue in the animal’s faeces.
Seven lion attacks in villages near the Gir wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat have killed three people since March, while another four victims have suffered serious injuries.
A pride of 17 endangered Asiatic lions, which only live in the forest in Gujarat, have been captured in the past month.
Officials have been monitoring the big cats’ behaviour and examining their faeces to identify the culprits.
“The scat analysis, that is an analysis of lion excreta, has shown remains of human hair and tissue in at least one of the lions captured,” UA Vora, a forest conservator, said.
“This lion has been isolated and will be kept in isolation in captivity forever,” he said.
Vora said even with the discovery of human tissue, the animal would under- go further investigations to establish if it deliberately attacked humans.
He said forestry officials have under- taken a “massive” awareness drive to warn people living in villages about the lions, telling them not to sleep in open fields.
One wildlife expert said the lions may have attacked as a rising human population had blocked their natural corridors – the route lions take to move from one area to another in search of prey.
“The government needs to come up with a long-term plan to open these blocked corridors to stop human-animal conflict,” independent expert Divyabhanu Singh said.
Conservationists have suggested some of the lions could be relocated to a different sanctuary.