Gir (Junagadh), May 10
The number of Asiatic lions in Gir sanctuary and its surrounding areas has gone up to 523, an increase of 27% since 2010.
Announcing the census results at a media conference at Sasan Gir, the administrative headquarters of the Gir sanctuary and national park, Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel said it was a matter of great pride for the state that its efforts to conserve and help expand the lion population had paid dividends.
She said the success had been achieved due to the collective efforts of the state forest department, voluntary organisations working for the conservation, wildlife experts and the people residing on the periphery of the national park.
The number of the Asiatic Lions, declared as an endangered species, was recorded at 411 in the May, 2010 census, increasing from 359 in 2005. The 14th lion census carried out by about 2,500 men and spread over some 22,000 square kilometer area continued to record increase in the population giving a lie to the apprehensions expressed by many environmentalists that the state's conservation policies had failed and the Asiatic Lions were not safe in Gujarat.
According to the census reports, of the 523 lions recorded, 109 were adult males, 201 adult females and 213 young cubs. It was the single largest increase recorded in five years since the first lion census carried out in 1936 when Gir forest was part of the erstwhile Junagadh princely state and recorded existence of 287 lions. The lion population had dipped to the lowest in 1974 when only 180 of the species were found in the Gir sanctuary but since then the population of the endangered species has continued to register steady increase.