The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi recently expressed his happiness over the increasing population of the majestic Asiatic Lion, living in Gujarat’s Gir Forest. The number was not estimated via Census but some observational method called Poonam Avlokan.
In a tweet, the Prime Minister said, “Two very good news: Population of the majestic Asiatic Lion, living in Gujarat’s Gir Forest, is up by almost 29%.
The Asiatic Lion
The Asiatic lion, once faced with imminent extinction has shown a population recovery which has been acclaimed as a global conservation success story, thanks to the timely intervention by the erstwhile Nawab of Junagadh and protection regimes of the Gujarat Forest Department in the post-independence era.
- Today, Asiatic lions are present in Protected Areas and agro-pastoral landscape of Saurashtra covering nine districts in a sprawling expanse of over 30000 sq. km which is termed as the Asiatic Lion Landscape.
- Understanding the population and distribution status of Asiatic Lions is imperative for their long term conservation and management.
- The population estimation of Asiatic Lions is conducted at an interval of five years. The last population estimation exercise was conducted in May 2015 which pegged the lion numbers at 523, a 27% increase from the estimation of 2010.
- The 15th Asiatic Lion Population Estimation was scheduled during 05-06 June, 2020, but owing to the present COVID-19 situation, it was not conducted as planned.
- What is interesting about this year’s announcement is that the number was not estimated via Census but some observational method called Poonam Avlokan. Now the question is what exactly is this Poonam Avlokan exercise.
- Exercise is carried out monthly and in-house every full moon. On this day, all the officers and field staff members assess the number of lions for 24 hours across various areas within their respective jurisdictions.
- The exercise this time involved around 10 districts where lions have been spotted over the years by 13 forest divisions.
- The population of Asiatic Lions has thus shown a steady increase with a population of 674 individuals with an increase rate of 28.87% (one of the highest growth rate so far) from the previous growth of 27% during 2015 (523 lions).
- The distribution of the lions has increased from an area of 22000 sq. km in 2015 to 30000 sq. km in 2020 thus increasing the distribution area by 36%.
- There has been a consistent increase in the population and distribution area of Asiatic Lions mainly owing to the effective conservation and management by the Gujarat Forest Department.
- Multiple strategies and interventions have been implemented in the Asiatic Lion Landscape that have majorly contributed to the current conservation success of the Asiatic lions viz. people’s participation, use of modern technology, wildlife health care including as import of CDV vaccine, habitat management, increase in prey base, human-lion conflict mitigation, etc.
- The Gujarat Forest Department remains cognizant and committed for the long term conservation Asiatic Lions.