Hyderabad: Vaccination has a huge potential to prevent deaths of large number of lions that were falling prey to Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) at Gir National Park in Gujarat. In the last few years, the virus wreaked havoc by claiming lives of over 20 lions at Gir sanctuary.
Edward C Ramsey, Professor in College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who is in Hyderabad for the international conference on wildlife conservation at CCMB, said that there are vaccines available in western countries that have the potential to suppress the outbreak of CDV among the big cats at Gir.
Interacting with Telangana Today, the expert veterinarian said the trials of anti-CDV vaccine conducted on captive ferrets have been very successful. “Multiple dosages of the vaccines have been able to suppress CDV among ferrets. There is a definite need to take-up similar study in India so that lives of precious big cats can be saved,” he said.
The researcher said that there is enough evidence that recombinant vaccines PureVax ferret distemper and Recombitek CDV vaccines (Boerhinger-Ingleheim) have been safely used in wide number of captive and even in wild animals. The CDV is a viral disease that can infect a wide variety of carnivore species and has caused fatalities in captive and wild lions and tigers in India.
It is caused by a single-strand RNA virus of the family Paramyxoviridae, the family of viruses that cause measles and mumps among humans. It is widely believed that the lions at Gir are contracting CDV from wild or feral dogs that live in and their habitat at Gir sanctuary. There have been reports in the past on deaths of tigers and leopards after consuming CDV-infected dogs at Ranthambore national park.
“CDV is spread through two methods, one being aerosol transmission, which is most common among dogs, and the second is through predation i.e. when they eat the infected animal then they get infected with the disease,” he said. Researchers pointed out that vaccination also has the potential to cause fresh challenges in the immune systems of lions and could possibly make them vulnerable to fresh viral attacks.
“Challenges notwithstanding, there is a definite need to try out vaccines and find out whether they are effective or not in India,” Dr Ramsay added.
With surge in numbers, Asiatic Lions at Gir Sanctuary seek new abode
Hyderabad: The last abode of Asiatic lions in India, the Gir Sanctuary in Gujarat does not have enough space to support the increasing numbers of the big cats. According to researchers from Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LACONES)-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), the numbers of Asiatic lions at Gir have gone-up and they badly need extra space and a new home.
A decade ago, the number of lions at the sanctuary was just below 20 and since then, the numbers have increased and according to 2016 census there are 523 lions at Gir, thanks to aggressive conservation efforts, researchers from LACONES said on Thursday. According to other sources, the population of lions at Gir might have even touched 600, which has put a lot of pressure on the local habitat.
“Initially, lions used to be found within 1400 square kilometers of the Gir Sanctuary. However, these days, the lions are going as far as 10,000 square kilometers. So now, they are also found in Daman and Diu, which is near the shoreline. We have been in touch with the local authorities who have indicated that they are in the process of creating an ideal habitat that is specific to the Asiatic lions. We feel this could be a way forward,” said Dr Ajay Gaur of LACONES.
The researcher who led genome sequencing project of the Asiatic Lion said that despite increase in numbers, there is always a risk to Asiatic lions. With strengthening of conservation measures and habitat recovery due to incessant efforts of the State authorities, the number of lions at Gir Sanctuary has increased significantly. However, with the entire wild population being confined to single location, the Asiatic lion is facing an increased risk of extinction because of a very low number and continuous inbreeding, he said.