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Lion census: Gujarat’s lion crosses 400 at gir forest

There is good news for the country: the Asiatic lion population has increased. Chief Minister Narendra Modi announced this in Gandhinagar on Sunday. Compared to the last count in 2005, there has been an increase of 52, taking the total to 411 this year.

What’s more: lions can now be found outside the Gir National Park and Sanctuary area, in the four districts of Amreli, Bhavnagar, Porbandar and Junagadh. This is what is now called the Bruhud (greater) Gir region. The Census has also found 77 cubs in the Gir National Park and Sanctuary, 46 sub-adult lions (23 males and as many females), 29 unidentified lions, 162 adult females and 97 adult males. Moreover, there has been a 40 per cent increase in the sub-adult population. The lioness and cub ratio is 1:2, which has always been the other way round, said Forest officials.

Savarkundla, Liliya and the adjoining areas of Amreli and Bhavnagar districts have 43 lions between them; the coastal areas of Una, Kodinar, Sutrapada and Chhara have 21 big cats. Altogether, there  are 76 lions—21 females and 26 males—in the greater Gir region.
Modi said: “The lion population has increased due to public participation. In1968, there were only 177 big cats. The Census methodology followed by the forest staff should be institutionalized, as it had a scientific approach. This can help Forest departments in other states as well. After several poaching cases were recorded, certain initiatives were taken to safeguard the lions such as raising the walls of the wells. Last year, only one cub died after it fell into a well.

For Kathiawar, lions are family
Last but not the least is the people’s participation that was given credit for the spectacular increase in the population. “We got the maximum of people’s participation in the census process this time. Lots and lots of volunteers had joined the exercise,” the forest department stated.

Be that as it may, the main functionaries in lion conservation are the residents of the surrounding villages, who do not flinch when a lion kills their livestock. How possessive the villagers are about the lions is evident from this incident of 2007.

Soon after the poaching incidents in 2007, the forest department was seeking help from the villagers for better protection of the lions. The villagers said they would help the department only if it promised that it would not take away any of the lions (meaning, the relocation proposal of the central government).

“ ‘You do not worry about the lions preying on our livestock, that is our internal issue. The lions are part of our family; we can deal with them. But don’t take them away,’ the villagers told me. I was totally impressed by their humane legacy,” Modi said.

Other wildlife in Gir sanctuary
Much as the king of the jungle gets the lion’s share of attention, one should not overlook the other wildlife which keep the ecosystem robust. Principal secretary, department of environment and forests, Gujarat, SK Nanda said all volunteers had reported sighting large numbers of sambars, retells and porcupines. “The population of Sambar is estimated to be around 48,000, there are 250 leopards in the Gir forests and 1,070 all over Gujarat,” he said.
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