Gujarat: Asiatic lions' population increases to 674

Gujarat: Asiatic lions' population increases to 674

The Asiatic lions' population in Gir forest and other landscapes is said to have increased to 674 with a growth of nearly 29% compared to 523 which was recorded in the last census held in 2015, the state forest department has found. These lions are spread over 30,000 square kilometres of protected forest and agro-pastoral landscape of nine districts of Saurashtra.

The finding of the rise in the population is based on an exercise locally called "Poonam Avlokan" or full moon observation of lions which was undertaken after the forest department had to abandon its census in view of the coronavirus pandemic. Officials said that although "poonam avlokan" is a routine monthly exercise this time it was undertaken more intensely by roping in 1400 personnel posted with thirteen administrative divisions. However, it is still an in-house affair than the usual census which is conducted every five years that involves other agencies including NGOs and independent environmentalists, among others.

Forest officials have said in a release that the full moon observation method has found lions' population increased to "674 individuals with an increased rate of 28.87% (one of the highest growth rates so far) from the previous growth of 27% during 2015 (523 lions)."

It also says that the distribution of lion habitat has also increased from 22,000 sq km in 2015 to 30,000 sq km in 2020. The release states that out of 674 individual lions, there are 161 adult males, 260 adult females, 45 male, and 49 female sub-adults, 137 cubs and 22 are unidentified.

"The Asiatic lion, once faced with imminent extinction has shown a population recovery which has been 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 states.

With the estimated increase in population, a significant number of wild cats are also said to be dying every year. The data presented in the state assembly last year revealed that between June 2017 and May 2019, a total of 222 lions died. The forest department stated that most of the deaths occurred due to a high cub mortality rate. They said that on average 90 cubs die every year. The forest officers said that there are other reasons as well that include disease, accidents like falling in well, being run over by the train, electrocution etc.