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Population of the majestic Asiatic lions in Gir forest up by 29%, read how Gujarat forest carried out the census amid coronavirus lockdown

Amid coronavirus lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared the good news about the majestic Asiatic lions in Gir forest. He mentioned in his tweet that the population of Asiatic Lions has increased by 29% in the last five years. Also, the distribution area is up by 36%. The tweet was based on the recent report submitted by the Gujarat Forest Department in which they noted that the population fo Asiatic lions in the state is 674, up from 523 in 2015.

The count is not based on the Census but on Poonam Avlokan (full-moon night estimation exercise) that is a population observation exercise. Once in every five years, the forest department conducts a Census of the Lions’ population that was due on 5th and 6th June this year. However, the department has to postpone it amid coronavirus lockdown that was announced on 24th March. The government deployed 1,500 forest guards, range forest officers and foresters to ensure lockdown is in place in the Gir forest.

Every year the forest department takes support from experts, NGOs and wildlife enthusiasts for the Census to ensure transparency. However, there were reports that a tigress in Bronx Zoo, New York, got infected with novel coronavirus and Forest Ministry decided not to take any risks this time.

Poonam Avlokan and the methodology behind counting Asiatic Lions

Poonam Avlokan is a monthly in-house exercise that was developed in 2014 as a part of the lion Census 2015. It is carried out in every full mood. The officers and field staff spend 24 hours in their respective jurisdictions to access the number of Asiatic lions. This time the department initiated the exercise from Friday 2 PM to Saturday 2 PM. The exercise covered 10 districts and 13 forest divisions, including Surendranagar and Morbi.

Population and distribution trend of Asiatic Lions

In 2015 there were 2,000 officers, volunteers and experts involved in Census. However, this month the exercise was conducted by 1,400 forest experts along with a few experts. The census takes around two days to complete, which has two stages named preliminary census and final census. Instead of observing only the water points, the team kept moving in their jurisdictions. They made their estimates based on inputs by lion trackers and chance sightings. They collected data based on Time, GPS location, number of individuals, individual identification marks, radio-collar numbers, images & egujforest data, etc.

Observations made by the forest department under Poonam Avlokan

  • The forest department mentioned that the population of lions is increasing at a steady speed. There are 161 male adults, 260 female adults, 45 sub-adult males, 49 sub-adult females, 22 unidentified sub-adults and 137 cubs in the Gir forest that makes a total of 674 lions.
  • The distribution of lions in 2015 was across 22000 square kilometers that has increased to 30000 square kilometers this year.
  • Multiple strategies and interventions have helped the forest department in maintaining a steady increase in population and distribution.

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