GUJARAT is now home to 674 Asiatic lions, the state forest department announced on Wednesday while declaring results of Poonam Avlokan, a lion population “observation” exercise undertaken the last full moon in place of the 15th lion census. The counting this time also covered two new districts of Surendranagar and Morbi where lions were found since the previous census five years ago, indicating reclaiming of new territory.
The figure is 151 more than the 523 Asiatic lions estimated in Gir forest and other areas of Saurashtra in 2015, said Shyamal Tikadar, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief wildlife warden of Gujarat in a release.
Of the 674 lions counted during the exercise, 260 were females, 161 males, 93 sub-adults and 137 cubs.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Kudos to the people of Gujarat and all those whose efforts have led to this excellent feat. Over the last several years, the lion population in Gujarat has been steadily rising. This is powered by community participation, emphasis on technology, wildlife healthcare, proper habitat management and steps to minimise human-lion conflict. Hope this positive trend continues!”
The 15th lion census was due to be conducted on June 5 and June 6, but was postponed indefinitely due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Instead, the forest department used the monthly Poonam Avlokan, an in-house exercise started in 2014 in the run up to the 14th lion census, to estimate the population of lions.
The chief wildlife warden told The Indian Express that the avlokan was as rigorous as a proper lion census. “Instead of sitting on a machan or a place, staff adopted route transaction method and tried to sight lions in that area. This is known as block count in which the figure that you ultimately receive is the minimum number of animals. There can be more than that figure but never less than that,” Tikadar said.
Bhushan Pandya, renowned wildlife photographer and a conservationist, said the population numbers of the carnivores were encouraging.