Indian police fear a lion ate a three-year-old child it snatched from a family in Savarkundla last week. Search teams have only found the partial remains of Nitin Rakeshbhai Mehda, including his head and legs, after he was mauled to death. But the lion remains at large, with forest department teams now working to bait the beast.
The animal pounced on the toddler while with his family at a farm in Ghanshyam Nagar, rural Savarkundla.
Authorities launched tracking efforts after emergency services rushed to the scene but could not save the child.
They now hope to trap the lion and have laid out cages across the search area.
The attack is the second of its kind in Gujarat – the only home of Asiatic lions in India – in the last six weeks, as it follows one in September.
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A lion killed 15-year-old Rahul Meswaniya on September 20 after it attacked the teen on a road in Gujarat’s Amreli district.
The attack in Vavdi village, near the Gir National Park lion reserve, happened as officials believed the boy was unacquainted with the area.
The lioness – one of the lions belonging to the non-protected area – pounced as he reportedly ran down the road.
Forest official Jayan Patel told The National that the animal “must have seen it as an attack on her”.
The area in which the lion attacked Mr Meswaniya fell within a “buffer zone” roughly 30km (18 miles) from the conservation area.
Mr Patel added that the boy came from a family of migrant workers unaware of the local wildlife.
Those living in the area’s “dozen” villages, he said, can “co-exist with the animals”.
Lions frequently prey on local livestock, such as cattle and pigs, but people living in the Amreli district frequently fall victim to animal attacks.
Conservation efforts have plumped up the local Asiatic population by more than 150 since 2015, with 675 lions recorded in Gir National Park in 2020.
While educated on the threat, local residents are not immune from the stalking predators.
A pair of lions killed an 18-year-old man working in the district a few months earlier in July.
The attack on Nitin Rakeshbhai Mehda may sound familiar to some, as lions killed another young child just two months before in May 2022.
In another Amreli incident, forest officials said a child was taken at 8pm on Monday, May 2, while playing near a water tank in Kadaya village.
The lion attacked and dragged the young girl approximately half a kilometre (0.3 miles) towards a forest.
While the girl’s father chased and freed her from the lion’s grip, she later died.
Authorities later caught and tranquillised the lion before taking the big cat to an animal care centre.