There is more good news for wildlife enthusiasts in India. After a tiger census earlier this year found a jump in the numbers of the big cat, the population of Asiatic lions too has been found to have increased considerably in the Gir wildlife sanctuary — from 411 during the last census in 2010 to 523 in 2015.
Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel released the much-awaited census data at a function held at Sasan in Gujarat on Sunday. Ms. Patel said that all measures would be taken to conserve the forests in Gir and ensure that the habitat of the pride of Gujarat is undisturbed. The Gir forest is the only place in the whole of Asia where the Asiatic lion is now found.
The lion census, conducted by over 10 00 enumerators over five days, concluded on May 5. The enumerators found 109 adult males, 201 adult females, and 213 cubs and sub-adults distributed across four districts — Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli, and Bhavanagar.
Pat for Maldharis C.N. Pandey, Principal Conservator of Forests, Gujarat, told The Hindu that the members of the Maldhari community living next to the forest area had been of great assistance to the Forest Department in their conservation efforts. He said under a government programme, some 300 Vanya prani saathis (friends of the forest animals) had been recruited to ensure that lions were not attacked if they strayed into any nearby villages. He said in order to avoid the danger of overestimation, new methods were adopted. The enumerators were GPS enabled and only recorded lions when they saw them physically and not through pugmarks or any other signs like hearing a roar.
Recently, MP Parimal Nathwani had raised the question whether the lion would replace the tiger as the National animal. In 1969, through an executive decision, the tiger replaced the lion as the National animal as its population was more widely distributed across the country but the lion was found in only one State. Sources in the Ministry of Environment and Forests however confirmed that there was no such decision in the offing for now.