|Lion population registers healthy growth Gujarat districts news|
|03 May 2010|
Gujarat's Junagadh district and neighboring Amreli seem to be in competition for hosting the largest population of coveted Asiatic lions. As many as 108 lions have been sighted in Amreli, second only to Junagadh, which has recorded a lion population of 270. The Gir National Park Sanctuary is located in Junagarh.
Meanwhiles, the king of the jungle seems to be have taken a special liking for Bhavnagar's grasslands. However, Porbandar district has not seen a single lion.
According to the latest census, there are 77 cubs less than a year old and 75 that are less than three years of age, which prompted Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to compare with a similar 40-per cent youth component of the Indian population on Sunday.
Modi said the world needed to take note of the scientific approach of the lion census conducted by Gujarat this time. He added that relevant authorities should conduct a scientific study of the method and replicate it in other wildlife censuses too.
He said that the earlier methodology was somewhat unscientific, based as it was on the instances of lion sightings reported and arriving at estimates of population based on attacks reported on other animals. This time around though, a more scientific and systematic method had been developed and deployed to arrive at more accurate population figures.
According to the forest department, the latest census used GIS, GPS and wireless technologies for effective coordination and proper documentation, which had been done for each observation through direct sighting with the animals identified with distinct body-marks.
Each team involved in the census had been directed to record the body-marks and other details including time of the sightings, to and fro directional movement etc on a form prepared by the forest department. Digital photographs had also been taken to serve as records.
Summer is the regarded to be the best time to conduct the counting exercise as the number of water bodies gets restricted at the time and wild life including lions need to converge at such places at least once every 24 hours which making the exercise that much easier.
The available water sources and probable watering places were surveyed in a nine-month-long pre-census exercise.
Claiming that effective conservation methods adopted by the state forest department had resulted in the significant rise in lion population, Modi said, "After the unfortunate incident (poaching cases of 2007), we recruited 400 new people, trained them for better guarding of the forest, and brought in motorcycles and all kinds of new technology.''
He said that Gujarat was very proud of its heritage and population of all wildlife had increased in the last 30 years, he added.
"The results can be seen in the census data this time," he added.
Commending the local people for their enthusiastic participation in the spectacular increase in the lion population, Modi said, "We got the maximum of people's participation in the census process this time.''
However, the key role in the lion conservation efforts is that of the residents of the villages adjoining the jungle king's habitat who take it in their stride when their livestock is attacked by the wild predators. An indication of the keenness of villagers to be part of the efforts is the help which they sought to extend to the conservation authorities on the condition that the proposed relocation of the lions was scrapped.
Modi said the villagers told the authorities not to worry about the lions preying on their livestock as it was their internal issue. He said the villagers told him they could deal with the lions as they considered the animals part of the family, but pleaded that the animals not be taken away from them.
Gujarat's conservation success story is however, not limited to lions as other wildlife populations are also rising. Principal secretary, department of environment and forests, Gujarat, SK Nanda said large numbers of sambars, leopards and porcupines had also been sighted by volunteers. He said the population of sambar has been estimated at 48,000, with 20 leopards in Gir forests and 1,070 all over Gujarat.