Sunday, April 04, 2010

Lion census from April 24, count could go beyond 400

Lion census from April 24, count could go beyond 400
Times of India

This is going to be a census that will be closely watched by many, given the fact that it is being conducted after a period that saw poaching incidents for the first time in Gir and when neighbour Madhya Pradesh became more aggressive in its demand for a share of the Asiatic lions.

The once-in-five-years census will be carried out for four days from April 24 in a direct-sighting method which will involve nearly 1,500 staffers. Teams will be equipped with 130 cameras and they will hover around the watering holes where lions are bound to come to quench their thirst during this hot summer period. It will take at least two months before the results are out, after careful tabulation of data and matching it with the photographic evidence.

Stray accidental deaths notwithstanding, the going has been good for the lion in its exclusive abode in Gir, with the Gujarat government promising expansion of its protected habitat and a Rs 40-crore corpus for its conservation. Sources say this time the lion count is likely to go up to 400 from the last figure of 359 of 2005.

Besides, the lion is poised to be one of the state's biggest draws in the soon-to-be launched campaigns featuring Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan.

The Gujarat government has told the Supreme Court that there could be 400 lions in and around Gir, a clear evidence of good conservation measures.

MP government, which has prepared Kuno Palpur as the lion's second abode, had a dig at Gujarat recently in its last affidavit filed before the SC, stating that if at least 10 lions died unnaturally in Gujarat, then the state could surely afford to part with five lions. It is another matter that the gangs of poachers arrested in Gujarat have all come from MP.

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