Gir lions up 29% to 674 in 5 years

In these times of Covid crisis, wildlife conservationists have something to cheer about. India has recorded a 29% increase in the population of Asiatic lions, living in Gujarat’s Gir forests, over the past five years with their numbers going up from 523 in 2015 to 674 in 2020.

The period also saw a 36% rise in the distribution area of the lions—from 22,000 sq km in 2015 to 30,000 sq km in 2020. Currently, Asiatic lions are found in protected areas and agro-pastoral landscape of Saurashtra, covering nine districts of Gujarat.

“Over the last several years, 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,” PM Modi tweeted on Wednesday.

The increase in lion count this year shows one of the highest growth rates so far. Last year, India had reported similar encouraging figures on tiger population. The country had recorded highest ever increase of 33% in its tiger population—from 2,226 in 2014 to 2,967 in 2018.

The data on the population of Asiatic lions has been compiled under ‘Poonam Avlokan of Asiatic Lions’—an exercise conducted by the Gujarat forest department on June 5-6, using block count method in the cluster of villages.

The department deployed 1,400 personnel for the exercise in the Asiatic lion landscape. They used GPS location, number of individual identification marks, radio-collar numbers and statistical software to arrive at the figures.

The population estimation of Asiatic lions is conducted at an interval of five years. The last population estimation was done in May 2015 which pegged the lion numbers at 523, an increase of 27% over the 2010 estimation. The latest figures on the population structure show 309 females, 206 males, 137 cubs and 22 unidentified lions in the population of 674. India had in 1968 recorded only 177 lions.

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