July 5, 2005

Rare Asiatic lion drowns in flood-hit western India

AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) - A rare Asiatic lion drowned inwestern India after the animal's only natural habitat wasflooded due to torrential rains, a forest official said onTuesday.

Some 360 other lions in the remote Gir sanctuary in Gujaratstate were safe after parts of the sprawling reserve came underflood water, chief wildlife warden Pradeep Khanna said.

"The post-mortem report of the full-grown lion confirmedthe cause of its death as drowning," Khanna said.

Gujarat has been battered by heavy rains for more than aweek, killing 132 people and leaving 400,000 people homeless.

Officials say that the Asiatic lions of Gir, as the onlyremaining group in the wild, are vulnerable to a suddenoutbreak of disease.

India is already struggling to save its tigers, rapidlydying out as people invade their habitat and poachers kill forbody parts that fetch huge sums on the international blackmarket.