Census of Asiatic lions begins in Gujarat
The Economic Times
AHMEDABAD/RAJKOT: The herculean task to enumerate the endangered in the sanctuary here began today with the five-day long undertaken by the forest department.
"The lion census began today and will continue upto May 5 in Gujarat's five districts in and around Gir Sanctuary," the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) in Gujarat C N Pandey told PTI.
"This time a method of direct sighting or direct contact will be used to count lions. The earlier indirect evidence like pug-marks or scat will not be taken into account, thus giving 100 per cent results," Pandey said.
Gir is the last abode of Asiatic Lions, where the species are found at present.
The forest department conducts the head count for lions every five years in first week of May. The last census was conducted in 2010. At that time the lion population had increased from 359 (census figures of 2005) to 411.
"GPS system will be used in lion census and as per the direct contact method, having spotted the lion, it will be photographed, and rather than preparing manual notes on the location, it will be tagged using the moretechnical geo-reference system," he added.
The exercise will be conducted with 2,500 people that include 600 units of enumerators including wild-lifeexperts, government officials, trackers, who tracks the behavioural pattern of lions, along with NGOs, added Pandey.
Enumerators will also record unique identification marks like scars on face, its colour, shape of ears, tuft of hair on tail, he said.
"The census will also take note of the lions' pride (a group or family of a lion) along with the individual. This will reduce chances of over-lapping, because, if the adjoining group (of enumerators) will spot the same lion then it would be easy to differentiate it on the basis of its pride," he said.
"Today the teams have reached there and are engaged in the pre-sruvey exercise. The first team will conduct the 24 hour exercise of counting the lions on May 2 which will return on May 3. While on May 4, another team will conduct the census exercise up to May 5. After consolidating the entire data, the final figure is likely to be announced on May 10," he said.
According to Pandey, the census will be conducted in the habitat circle of lions in and around 20,000 square km in Junagadh, Gir-Somnath, Devbhoomi-Dwarka, Bhavnagar and Amreli districts.
"We have made announcements that Asiatic Lion sanctuary and safari park will remain closed during May 1 to 5 for the census," he said.
"Last time, the population of lions in Gir forest and its surrounding areas was 411 and this time the department is hoping that the population will go up further," Deputy Conservator of Forest (Gir) Sandeep Kumar told mediapersons.