AHMEDABAD: There are studies galore on man-animal conflict, but this one maps the common suffering of humans and lions. In Amreli, Saurashtra, a region reeling under contaminated water, both humans and lions seem to be victims of fluorosis — a disease characterized by tooth decay and deterioration of bones and joints due to high content of fluoride in ground water.
Interestingly, the path-breaking study ‘Ecology of Lions in Greater Gir’ is being pursued by no veterinary experts but doctors trained in treating humans. It is love for the wildlife that prompted this Junagadh-based radiologist-anesthetist duo to undertake a one-year-long study in 250 sq km of Lathi Liliya area having a population of 40 lions, which has thrown up surprising findings!
“Out of eight lions studied so far, tooth decay was found in three. One lion has lost all but two of the 26 teeth, second has lost four and third has lost three. These lions were not reported to have met any accidents. This is intriguing as lions are not recorded to lose teeth in their lifetime. Minor deformities in bones were also recorded,” said Dr Jalpan Rupara, a radiologist. He is pursuing the study with his friend Dr Purvesh Kacha.
The doctors have deduced that this dental loss in lions is due to high fluoride content in the ground water in the region. “The area is endemic for fluorosis in humans. The same effect is also observed in lions in our study which were found to suffer primary fluorosis. This could be because lions in this region drink from ponds and rivulets which are known to turn salty during summers and winters due to high contaminants,” said Dr Kacha.
The duo, who got hooked to wildlife a decade ago as MBBS students in Jamnagar, took up studying lions for fluorosis after they read a paper ‘Spontaneous fluorosis in Indian buffaloes’ conducted by Bhavesh Trangadia and others that said 33% of buffaloes studied suffered from dental decay and bone defects in Lathi-Liliya.