After three lions were given strict punishments over the killings of three villagers near the Gir National Forest in the western Indian state of Gujarat, two lion cubs in the sanctuary will be put under observation. The cubs, considered "juveniles", got the benefit of doubt in the case that saw the "arrest" of about 17 lions.

The Gujarat forest department has decided to put the two cubs under observation in the forests at Sasan village. Forest officials said although human hair was found in the faeces of the two cubs, it was negligible and may have come from the leftovers consumed by them. The cubs are not being held guilty of killing the three villagers. A decision on where they will be kept will be made after observing their behaviour toward humans.

"The two cubs are under observation and once we find their behaviour is convincing, they will be released in the wild," Chief conservator of forests A P Singh was quoted by The Times of India as saying. He added that a male lion that was found to be the "main culprit" has been sent to captivity.

A total of 17 lions and lionesses were caged following the series of three deaths in Ambardi village near the national sanctuary. Scat analysis and study of pug marks of the 17 lions over the past month led to the conclusion that the male lion was responsible for the killings. A large amount of human hair was reportedly found in his scat.

On Wednesday (15 June), the forest department handed out a zoo sentence to the male lion. The animal will be kept in captivity in a zoo all his life, while two other lionesses will be kept at the Gujarat forest department's rescue centre.

The forest officials said they will release the 14 other lions and lionesses in the forests in different areas, but will continue to keep a watch so the two cubs can later be released into the group.