Human-eating lions condemned to life in captivity in India

In this Saturday, March 24, 2012 photo, a lion rests at the Gir Sanctuary Forest reserve in the western Indian state of Gujarat, India. Forest reserve officials have sentenced three lions to life in captivity after they were found to have eaten humans. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade, File)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Three lions identified as having eaten villagers in western India have been caged and will never be released back into the wild, forest officials said Thursday.

The male and two females were among 17 lions rounded up after a 14-year-old boy was dragged away while sleeping outside his house near the lion sanctuary in the Gir National Forest in Gujarat state, the world’s last refuge for wild Asiatic lions.

The boy was the third person killed since April in the area, prompting protests by villagers and local lawmakers who demanded authorities hunt down the man-eaters.

Gujarat’s chief conservator, A.P. Singh, said wildlife officials identified the three lions by analyzing the 17 lions’ scat and finding human remains for those three.

He said the male had attacked and killed the humans, while the females had eaten the leftovers.

The male lion has been moved to an enclosure at the nearby Junagadh zoo, while the two females will be held in cages at a rescue center, a zoo official said.

The 14 other lions will be released back into the wild at Gir, a sanctuary that has become overcrowded beyond its 270 lion capacity. While some of India’s remaining 500 or so wild lions have migrated to surrounding wildlife parks in search of territory, other prides have settled near riverbeds or farmlands on the sanctuary’s borders, leading to conflict with nearby villagers.

In 2013, the Supreme Court ordered Gujarat to relocate some lions to other states to prevent the population from being hit all at once by a natural disaster or disease. But Gujarat has resisted moving any of the lions, saying it does not trust other Indian states to protect the big cats.

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