AHMEDABAD: As Gir reopened for tourists on Tuesday after the three-month monsoon break, it was the young Simbas who hogged all limelight. This season there are about 90 newborn cubs - a rise of 20% compared to last year - in the last abode of Asiatic lion.
While the tourist footfalls were marginally less as compared to the opening day last year - about 935 people visited Gir on Tuesday - officials say it was because last year the sanctuary was thrown open during the Diwali holidays.
Pravin Vara, who had come with a group of 40 people from Rajasthan, spotted two females with two newborn cubs and even a lion.
Every season, 75-odd cubs are born. The higher number this time is due to an increasing number of lionesses. The female to male lion ratio in Gir has consistently improved - from 76 lions and 100 lionesses a few years ago to 97 males and 162 female animals now. "If the number of females is higher than males, it is good for reproduction. Fewer males would mean less infighting," said additional principal chief conservator of forests Dr H S Singh.
Recently, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), while shifting the big cats from critically endangered species category to endangered species, had mentioned, "The number of mature lions has been increasing, all occurring within one sub-population (but in four separate areas, three of which are outside of the Gir forest protected area). Since the population now extends beyond the boundary of the lion sanctuary, the numbers are stable."
The survival rate of cubs in Gujarat is higher than their African counterparts. A study has revealed the cub survival rate of Gir forest was about 56%.