NEW DELHI: In great news for

wildlife conservation

, India has recorded 29% increase in population of Asiatic lions, living in Gujarat Gir forest, in past five years — from 523 in 2015 to 674 in 2020.

The period also saw 36% increase in

distribution area

of the lions from 22000 sq. km in 2015 to 30000 sq. km in 2020. Currently, Asiatic lions are found in 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.

Graphic and map courtesy: Gujarat Forest Department

The increase in lion count this year shows one of the highest growth rate so far. Last year, India had reported similar encouraging result on tiger population. The country had recorded highest ever increase of 33% in tiger population — from 2,226 in 2014 to 2,967 in 2018.

The data on population of Asiatic Lions is 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 1400 personnel for this exercise in the Asiatic lion landscape. They used GPS location, number of individual identification marks, radio-collar numbers and statistical software’s to arrive at the figure.

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% over the estimation of 2010.

Since the Asiatic Lion Population Estimation could not be conducted as planned due to Covid-19 situation this year, the Gujarat forest department had conducted the exercise under ‘Poonam Avlokan of Asiatic Lions’ and made the data public on Wednesday.

The figures on lion population structure in June 2020 show 309 female, 206 male, 137 cubs and 22 unidentified lions in the population of total 674.

India had in 1968 had recorded only 177 lions. The country had launched Project Lion in 1972. The numbers has 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 majorly contributed to the current conservation success of the Asiatic lions viz. people’s participation, use of modern technology, wildlife health care including as import of

canine distemper

virus (CDV) 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 Modi on twitter.

The state had witnessed CDV outbreak that resulted in deaths of 36 lions in 2018.

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