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Gujarat to set up Rs 50 crore state-of-the-art hospital for Asiatic lions

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Ahmedabad, Nov 21: Alarmed over the virus outbreak that claimed the lives of 27 Asiatic lions in their only abode Gir in Saurashtra, the Gujarat government has come up with a range of new initiatives for the conservation of the big cats, including building a state-of-the-art hospital in Sasan-Gir to treat them.

Gir lion

The hospital, to be built at a cost of Rs 50 crore, will have a laboratory to conduct various tests to ascertain the cause of infections among animals.

To run the animal hospital and laboratory, the government has also approved to set up a separate Veterinary Cadre, for which around 120 experts and technicians will be recruited.

Gir Lion deaths: Is it time to find a second home for Asiatic lions?

Other measures include deployment of drones to keep a watch on lions' movements, installing a camera network in Gir forest, building eight new rescue centres, deployment of 33 Rapid Response Teams in the forest and recruitment of 100 'trackers' to keep an eye on lions.

To increase the prey base for lions, Gujarat will open four new breeding centres for these animals (such as nilgai and antelopes). A dedicated ambulance service for lions and a 24-hour helpline, for getting vital information from public about lions is also in the offing.

Lion Death: What ails the pride of Gujarat's Gir?

Meanwhile, Gujarat is likely to get five new safari parks, including a lion safari park near Gandhinagar. A tiger safari park would come up near Kevadia in Narmada district along with leopard safari parks in Bhavnagar, Surat and Dangdistricts.

Gir forest, which is spread across 1,440 square kilometres, is the only abode of Asiatic lions in the world. It showed a 27% increase in lion population (523) in 2015 census as compared to 2010 (411).

The lion population in Gir has increased over the years: According to the 2015 census, Gir has 523 lions, including 109 male, 201 female, 73 sub-adults, and 140 cubs. In fact, 40% of the lion population has been recorded outside GPA - which is 1,200 sq km - in an expanse of 12,000 sq km. This rise in population is increasing the chances of man-animal conflict.

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