Monday, April 26, 2010

Lion census: Number may touch 400

Lion census: Number may touch 400
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

Many Sightings In First Round Have Fuelled Expectations

It was 1 am, the beat guard inside the sanctuary heard a lion's roar. The big cat was near by. A nocturnal search was launched, which ended in sweet success. The team traced two lionesses with a cub.

This is not an isolated incident. There were several sightings of lions within the sanctuary and even outside, which has made the experts believe that the count could well touch 400. The first round of the lion census ended at 2 pm on Sunday. According to the forests department officials, the count as compared to 2005 census would record an increase of about 10-15 per cent. The previous census in 2005 had reported 359 lions in Gir.

Refusing to be identified, a census volunteer said, "I was on the job from 2 pm on Saturday when we first spotted two lionesses and a cub in Talala region. The cub was about three months old. The lioness had some injury marks on the left side of the neck. This was noted down by us and photographs from different angles were taken. Also the forests officials marked the location using global positioning system."

The sighting of the lioness with its cub added to the enthusiasm of the forest officials, who are all geared up for the final count beginning 2 pm on Monday. The four-day census began on Saturday. The count has been taken up at 450 different locations across Porbander, Bhavnagar, Amreli, Junagadh and a portion of Rajkot.

The foresters said that there possibilities were that the count could be anywhere between 280-290 in Gir sanctuary and another 30 lions could be present in Mityala and Girnar sanctuaries. Sources said that going by the sightings outside sanctuary, it was clear that the number may be anywhere between 90-110 in the far reaches of Amreli, Porbander and even Bhavnagar. In Mahuva region alone the count was 15-17, said the officials. In Khambha alone 30 odd lions were spotted.

Principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) R Asari said that the first round concluded without any hiccups. "Trends would be available by April 28 or April 29. The final count would be ready by April 30," he said. All eyes are trained on the 2010 census for two reasons: This is the first census which covers an area of about 8,000-10,000 sq km. Also this is the first official count after the 2007 poaching incident.

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