According to the 2010 tiger census, the number of tigers in the country was 1706, up from 1411 in 2006. But tiger territory had come down to 72,852 sq km from 93,967 sq km over the same period. In contrast, the lion population in Gujarat - the only abode of the Asiatic lion - has not only gone up in the past four years but the territory in which it could be found had doubled.
In 1972, the tiger population in the country was 1827. This increased to its peak of 4334 and then declined to 1411 by 2006. By 2010, tiger numbers had again gone up to 1706. On the other hand, the lion population, which was 177 in 1968 and 180 in 1974, had steadily increased and was 411 according to the April 2010 lion census.
Forest department officials say that land area in which lions are found had doubled in the last three years. During the 2010 census, they were spread over a 10,000 sq km area but an analysis done in 2013 of prey killed by lions had revealed that the big cat now had sway over 20,000 sq km.
The officials further said that the central government had spent crores on conservation of tigers but was miserly when it came to funding various lion conservation schemes. The lion was not covered under Project Tiger nor was there a separate central project for lion conservation. The Centre had launched Project Rhino and Project Elephant recently but it had been neglecting the lion in allocation of funds, alleged officials.
A scientific paper by Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, HS Sinsha, says that the key aspect in conservation of the Asiatic lion was their dispersal and subsequent protection of surrounding satellite populations.
Approximately one-fourth of the Asiatic lions are to be found in protected satellite populations outside the Gir Conservation Area and they subsist primarily on wild prey. The protection of these satellite habitats and maintenance of corridors linking them to the core population in the Gir Conservation Area has allowed for the continuous growth of this endangered species.