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Lions census begins, 2700 out to track wild cats in Gir Sanctuary, Gujarat

Map Guj Nat Parks Sanctuary.png

Distribution of lions in India: The Gir Forest, in Gujarat, is the last natural range of about 400 wild Asiatic lions. There are plans to reintroduce some lions to Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh. (Wikipedia.org)

After a five-year gap, India has kicked off enumeration of lions in Gir Sanctuary of Gujarat, the last habitat for the endangered big cats.

The census will reveal whether there is any growth or decline in the number of lions from the last recorded 411 in 2010. In 2005, there were only 359 lions in the sanctuary. Officials hope to find more numbers this time, in the range of 500.

The four-day census operation is being conducted in 5 districts of Gujarat and enumerators, mostly volunteers and forest officials, are spreading over the sanctuary to count the wild cat, whose number is declining alarmingly around the world. This time, “the lions which have migrated outside the sanctuary will also be counted,” said principal chief conservator of forests C. N. Pandey.

The enumeration methodology is a combination of direct sightings, photographs and corraborate with the GPS tracking to avoid double counting, said officials.

About 2300 forest department employees have been deployed, said Principal Chief Conservator of Forest AC Pant. The census of lions has been in vogue since since 1936 and the current one is the 14th in series. From 287 recorded in 1936, the number has gone up to 411 in 2010 and it is expected to have gone up this time.

Officials said the lions are spread over in an are of 16,000 sq km and the current census will be carried out in 22,000 sq km area, covering  8 regions, 21 zones and 106 sub-zones and 625 census units, under the supervision of senior forest officials.

In zones, DCF-rank officers are overseeing the operation in which 625 pelple have joined since Friday. The census will go on till Wednesday. For the first time, 150 women are participating in the enumeration process.  Also, 18 medical teams are on stand by, besides a control room and computer lab.

With the GSP location of lion, this time a map is being prepared to pin point the exact location of lions. Recently, India conducted census for tigers too.

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