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AHMEDABAD: Asiatic lions in Gujarat are alive and roaring. The recently concluded ‘poonam avalokan’ or full-moon night observation which replaced Lion Census 2020 due to Covid pandemic in Gujarat has revealed a 29% rise in their population, top sources said.
Sources in the know of the counting exercise said observation undertaken on June 5-6 by forest department shows the state is now home to 674 lions, a rise of 151 lions from the count of 523 lions in the census conducted in May, 2015. The official data of the counting exercise is expected to be declared soon.
The distribution range of lions has also expanded to 30,000 sq km, rise of 36% as compared to 22,000 sq km in 2015. Officials said lion population has doub led compared to 2001 while its footprints have expanded by 400%.
Rajiv Gupta, additional chief secretary, forest and environment, when contacted declined to reveal the exact number of lions but indicated that lion growth was indeed robust.
“Lions have recorded a healthy growth in population due to effective conservation and management efforts by the state government with support from the Centre,” said Gupta. He added that the forest department had successfully curbed the canine distemper virus (CDV) outbreak in 2018.
PM Narendra Modi had himself intervened to bring a large number of vaccines from the United States for treatment of CDV. Unlike Africa where 90% of the population was wiped off by the outbreak, Gujarat’s loss was restricted to 36 lion deaths due to CDV, said sources. Since 1968, when 177 lions were counted, the figures have steadily grown.
Wildlife experts have pointed out in the past that the state has a robust growth in lion population in Gujarat with many even speculating that their numbers have informally crossed 1,000 mark. Sources said the state now has 159 male and 262 female lions with a healthy’ female to male ratio of 1.64. This ratio was 1.84 in 2015.