While two cubs were cut into pieces, the third one was hit by the train and later died, forest officers said, adding their mother lioness escaped unhurt though. The incident took place near Rampara village, a few kilometres away from Pipavav port.
“The accident occurred at around 7:30 PM when the lioness came out of a thicket of gando baval (prosopis juliflora) with her three cubs. Coincidentally, a goods train on its way to Pipavav port also happened to pass through the same stretch. Since the track is lined by gando baval on either side, niether pilot of the train nor our railway trackers could spot the lion pride, resulting in death of the three cubs,” assistant conservator of forest (ACF) of Amreli, CB Dhandhiya told The Indian Express.
The ACF further said that the cubs were around four months old and that their mother had escaped unhurt. The train had been stopped after the accident, Dhandhya added.
This has been the first train accident involving Asiatic lion casualty since September last year. This has been also first such accident in Amreli district since May last year. Four Asiatic lions were killed in three different accidents on this railway line in first five months of year 2014. This had prompted the forest department to hire eight railway trackers on a contract basis while also engaging 45 others as daily wagers to secure the tracks.
The railway line connects the busy Pipavav port to the rest of India and crosses Rajula taluka, where, according to forest officers, around 60 Asiatic lions have settled. The track also passes through Liliya taluka of Amreli, another area where the big cats have settled for the last 10 years.
State government has set aside Rs 10 crore to fence stretch of the railway track in Rajula but it has not materialised as yet and the railway line continues to pose danger to the endangered carnivore which have settled in protected and revenue areas of Amreli.
According to the 2010 census, there were 411 Asiatic lions in Gir forest and protected areas in Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts in the Saurashtra region of Gjujarat. This area is the only natural habitat of the Asiatic lions in the world.