AHMEDABAD: Gujarat, the last abode of the Asiatic lion, has added some more to the big cat pride. Forest officials involved in the lion census in Gir and surrounding areas said an increase of 12-15% has been recorded in the number of lions compared to the 2005 census which had put the count at 359.
“We are putting the number at around 405,” said a source. The final count would be declared by senior officials who would take a call on Friday morning before the data is submitted to Chief Minister Narendra Modi by 4 pm.
Sources further said there was much hue and cry over the large number of lions moving out in the fringe areas of Gir. However, according to officials, the count in Gir forest was around 290 lions while another 25-odd lions were spotted in the Girnar and Mityala sanctuaries.
Officials said the three sanctuaries put together would account for around 315 lions, while the remaining were in Khamba, Mahuva, Palitana and parts of Amreli district.
A senior forest official said this was exactly the figure which was derived at during the nine-month exercise which began before the census. Officials said that of the 90-odd lions which venture out of the Gir sanctuary, about 25 are in Mahuva, while another 30 are in Khamba. Interestingly, not a single lion was sighted in the coastal belt from Veraval to Mangrol.
The four-day census exercise, which began on April 24, covered a large area spread over 10,000 sq km. No less than 1,300 forest officials and volunteers were deployed for the exercise using global positioning system and digital photography.
Officials said photographs taken by volunteers had helped forest officials cut down on the time taken previously to complete the census. “We have been able to arrive at the final count in less than 72 hours of the completion of census,” said a senior official.