“Asiatic Lion Roars Louder”: India’s Big Cat Population Increased By 29%. Finally Some Happy News

Animals

“Asiatic Lion Roars Louder”: India’s Big Cat Population Increased By 29%. Finally Some Happy News

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

With a pandemic, locust swarms, and the country facing a massive humanitarian crisis over the nationwide lockdown, there hasn’t been much to celebrate in 2020.

But a recent report on the lion population in Gir sanctuary is some proof that, at least, nature is continuing to thrive in this period. According to the report, there has been a 29% increase in the numbers of Asiatic lions in the wild in the last five years.

The positive trend was announced and tweeted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, who said it was largely due to increased community participation, more emphasis on technology, and proper habitat management, among other measures.

The PM also noted that the geographical area over which the lions are spread had increased by 36% since 2015, and praised the people of Gujarat for their help.

The “Asiatic lion roars louder,” environment minister Prakash Javadekar said in his tweet.

The population of Asiatic lions — which were once categorised as critically endangered — has been steadily rising over the years. There were said to be 359 tigers in the wild in 2005, a number that now stands at 674.

The numbers were tracked by the State Forest Department through the “Poonam Avlokan” exercise, which is carried out once every five years. Nearly 1500 forest department officials are deployed for the exercise. They used GPS location trackers, radio collars, individual identification marks, and statistical software to arrive at the figures.

The state’s chief wildlife warden, Shyamlal Tikadar was quoted as saying that these numbers reflected an extraordinary recovery, which he credited to the erstwhile Nawab of Junagadh and the protection programmes launched by the Gujarat government since.

“Today, Asiatic lions are present in protected areas and agro-pastoral landscape of Saurashtra covering nine districts in a sprawling expanse of over 30,000 sq km, which is termed as the Asiatic Lion landscape,” he said.

Historically the Asiatic lion was said to roam across large parts of the continent, from the Middle-East to north India. Today its range is restricted to the Gir sanctuary. Thanks to the hard work of a number of conservation groups, however, it is no longer a critically endangered species. Let’s hope the good work continues!

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