Asiatic lion population in India up by 29 per cent in 5 years

(Representative Image)
(Representative Image)

Wildlife conservationists have something to cheer about as India has recorded a 29 per cent increase in the population of Asiatic lions, found only in Gujarat’s Gir forests, in the past five years, with their population going up from 523 in 2015 to 674 in 2020. The latest figures on lion population structure show 309 females, 206 males, 137 cubs and 22 unidentified lions in the population of 674.

The period also saw a 36% increase 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 the protected areas and agro-pastoral landscape of Saurashtra, covering nine districts in Gujarat.

“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,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi while sharing details of the lion count on Wednesday.

The increase in the 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 the highest ever increase, 33 per cent, 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 forest department deployed 1,400 personnel for the exercise. 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 per cent over the estimation of 2010.

The latest figures on lion 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. The numbers have, however, been increasing consistently with the help of multiple conservation measures since then.

“Multiple strategies and interventions have been implemented in the Asiatic lion landscape that have contributed to the current conservation success viz people’s participation, use of modern technology, wildlife health care including import of canine distemper virus vaccine, habitat management, increase in prey base, human-lion conflict mitigation etc,” said Gujarat’s chief wildlife warden in a note which was shared by the PM on Twitter. The state saw a CDV outbreak that resulted in death of 36 lions in 2018. (Times of India)