Lion count in Gir forest up by 52

The Gir forest, the last surviving home of Asiatic lions in the subcontinent, has finally brought some cheer to wildlife conservationists. According to the 2010 lion population estimate, there are 411 lions, an increase of 52 over the last count in 2005.

The announcement was made by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in Gandhinagar on Sunday.

Also heartening is the presence of lions now found outside the Gir National Park and Sanctuary in the four districts of Amreli, Bhavnagar, Porbandar and Junagadh, in what is now called the Bruhud (Greater) Gir region.

Latest estimate shows an increase in the numbers of adult females lions as compared to males; there are 162 female lions and 97 male lions.

While Savarkundla, Liliya and adjoining areas of Amreli and Bhavnagar districts have shown a total 43 Asiatic Lions, the coastal areas near Una, Kodinar, Sutrapada and Chhara had around 21 Asiatic Lions. Of the total, 76 Asiatic Lions have been reported in the newer areas, 21 females and 26 males.

"The number of Asiatic lions have increased because of people's participation. In 1968 the lion population was around 177, which has almost doubled according to the current population estimates," Modi told reporters. "The census methodology opted by the forest staff should be institutionalised. This time the methodology had a scientific approach and this is can help the forest department in other states as well."

Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) R V Asari said, "It is good news that the rate of survival of females, sub adults and cubs is more than earlier years. The lions are found healthier. The population of lions is quite stable in the grasslands of Bhavnagar and there is an increase of Asiatic lions in Rajula and Jaffrabad, which are neighbouring to the coastal areas."

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