A pride of 18 Asiatic lions had been captured in Gir forest after they were accused of eating people. The 'man-eaters' were put on trial and samples of their excreta tested for human hair or tissue.
According to AP Singh, chief conservator of the Gir Forest, the lions were royal animals and did not eat human beings. He went on to add that these rumours should be avoided and the incident was just an accident.
So far, three of the lions – one adult male and two sub-adult females had been proclaimed guilty of being man-eaters and will spend their lives in captivity.
There had been a steady increase in the lion population and according to Naval Aparnathi, assistant conservator of the forest, that if even half the lionesses at Gir gave birth this year, there would be an increase of 150-200 lions. This increase in population had created a space crunch for lions, which in turn had led to human-lion conflicts at Gir, leading to the deaths of humans and the captivity of lions.
The species was endangered with its population dwindling as human settlements encroached on its remaining habitat. With the process expected so speed up, human-lion conflicts would increase, leading to killings on both sides.
Approximately 400 Asiatic lions were left in the wild, and they are the only lion population outside of Africa. According to wildlife officials in India the Gir National Park, where almost all these lions lived, could only accommodate only 270 of them, leading some prides to venture outside its boundaries.
India's Supreme Court recently ordered Gujarat to relocate some of its lions to other states, but the state had not yet complied.
The 18 lions now in custody will have their pug marks and feces tested, which, according to police could indicate which one was the culprit.