The population has more than doubled since 1979

The population of Asiatic Lions in the Gir forest in Gujarat's Saurashtra region, the only abode of the animals in the world, has grown by 13 per cent, Chief Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday.

“This is Gujarat's gift to the world as we celebrate the golden jubilee of the State,” he said. Against an average of 5-7 per cent growth recorded in the previous counts, the population grew by 13 per cent, to 411, in the just-concluded 13{+t}{+h} census. The last count, taken in 2005, put the number at 359.

Announcing the outcome of the Asiatic Lion census-2010, carried out in the sprawling expanse of “Greater Gir,” including some areas outside the Gir National Park, Mr. Modi said that benchmarked against the 1979 census, which put the number at a mere 205, the population had more than doubled. Of the 411 lions, 77 were cubs less than a year old, and 75 in the 1-3 age group.

“Thus, almost 40 per cent of the lion population comprises young ones, which bodes well for the future.”

Gender imbalance

Furthermore, gender imbalance did not affect the population: of the total, 97 were male and 162 female, and the rise in the female population had helped to decrease the incidents of male lions devouring cubs, as the female lions prevented such attempts.

Mr. Modi said the Rs. 40-crore special package announced last year for the sanctuary and its environs had paid dividends. The packaged helped to enhance communication facilities and launch a crash programme to cover open wells.

“We used to lose 10 cubs, on an average, every year to these open wells. After the implementation of the package, the loss this year was only one cub.”