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Gandhinagar, June 11, 2020
Gujarat has reported a significant rise in the population of Asiatic lions in their habitat in the protected areas and the agro-pastoral landscape of the Saurashtra region in the state, including the famed Gir Forests, to 674.
This is a 28.87 per cent increase over the numbers five years ago, when the last count was done. It is also one of the highest growth rates in the population of lions in the state, a press release from the Gujarat Forest Department said here yesterday.
The last population estimation exercise was conducted in May 2015 which pegged the lion numbers at 523, a 27% increase from the estimation of 2010.
The Asiatic lions are present today in what is called the Asiatic Lion Landscape, a sprawling expanse of more than 30,000 square kilometres, the release said.
According to it, understanding the population and distribution status of Asiatic Lions is imperative for their long term conservation and management. The population estimation of Asiatic lions is conducted at an interval of five years.
The 15th Asiatic Lion Population Estimation was scheduled during June 5-6 this year but was not conducted as planned because of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Therefore, in order to develop an understanding of the current population status and distribution of the lions, the Gujarat Forest Department conducted an exercise called popularly as Poonam Avlokan on the same dates, using the Direct Beat Verification, also known as the Block Count method.
The exercise was conducted exclusively by the forest staff of thirteen administrative divisions under the supervision of the respective administrative authorities, involving a total manpower of around 1,400 personnel, the release said.
According to the findings of the exercise, the distribution of the lions has increased from an area of 22,000 sq. km in 2015 to 30,000 sq. km in 2020, thus increasing the distribution area by 36%.
"There has been a consistent increase in the population and distribution area of Asiatic lions mainly owing to the effective conservation and management by the Gujarat Forest Department.
"Multiple strategies and interventions have been implemented in the Asiatic Lion Landscape that have majorly contributed to the current conservation success of the Asiatic lions viz. people’s participation, use of modern technology, wildlife health care including as import of CDV vaccine, habitat management, increase in prey base, human-lion conflict mitigation, etc.," it said.
"The Gujarat Forest Department remains cognizant and committed for the long term conservation Asiatic lions," the release added.
The Asiatic lion was once facing imminent extinction but showed a population recovery, which was acclaimed as a global conservation success story, thanks to the timely intervention by the erstwhile Nawab of Junagadh and protection regimes of the Gujarat Forest Department in the post-independence era, the release added.
Though its current range is restricted to the Gir National Park and its surrounding areas, the lions used to, at one time, inhabit much of West Asia and the Middle East, up to Northern India. It is on the IUCN Red List as an endangered species because of its small population size and area of occupancy.
Since the beginnning of the 20th century, the Asiatic Lion is restricted to the Gir National Park and surrounding areas. However, its population is now increasing steadily.