The much-anticipated census of the Asiatic lion which began on the 2nd of May this year winds down today, i.e. May 5. The five-yearly count is expected to put to rest all speculations regarding the actual number of lions in the wild and give a clear picture about its latest status. That there is a lot of media and public attention regarding the census is also understandable –the globally endangered big cat is found only in the Gir Sanctuary, which is its last refuge. The census will be conducted across five districts in Gujarat.
The last time the census was conducted in 2010, 411 lions were found to be living in the 20 000 sq km area of the sanctuary, up from the 359 lions recorded in 2005. Officials are confident that lion count should show a healthy increase. The census would include any lion that may have ventured outside the sanctuary as well.
According to officials, a multi-pronged approach would be adopted to arrive at an authentic number, like apart from direct sightings, photographs and GPS tracking technology would be used to counter the problem of double counting.
The forest department has already put in place 80 trap cameras to capture images of the lions so that data can be compiled in a scientific manner. A 1,412 sq km area has been chosen for the census, which will be carried out in two phases: the first phase will be covered on May 2 and 3 while the second and last phase will be done on May 4 and 5.
The exercise which involves around 2,500 people has participants from different walks of life like wildlife experts from top institutes in the country. The results of the survey will be declared on May 10.
The survey also carries a lot of significance in the international level, as there is a lot of concern among wildlife lovers around the world about the high number of endangered species– including the tiger – in the country.
The tiger-census which was conducted in January this year however had brought happy news with the tiger population showing an increase of 30% (2,226 tigers) from 1, 706 in 2010.