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Asiatic Lions’ population risen by 29% over five years

  • Category
    Ecology and Environment
  • Published
    18th Jun, 2020

June 5 census of Asia's exclusive population indicates population of Asiatic Lions have risen by 29% over five years. 

Context

June 5 census of Asia's exclusive population indicates population of Asiatic Lions have risen by 29% over five years. 

About

  • Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica) were once distributed upto the state of West Bengal in east and Rewa in Madhya Pradesh, in central India. At present Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is the only abode of the Asiatic lion. 
  • Also known as the “Indian lion” and the “Persian lion”, it is one of five pantherine cats. Others are:
    • Bengal tiger
    • Indian leopard 
    • Snow leopard 
    • Clouded leopard
  • Conservation status: They are listed in-
    • Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972
    • Appendix I of CITES
    • Endangered on IUCN Red List
  • Threat: Factors which are threats to the lion conservation are encroachment, forest fire, natural calamities, grazing, collection of fuelwood, Non-timber forest produce (NTFP), poaching, tourism, religious pilgrimage and accidental lion deaths due to human causes

The increase

  • The number of Asiatic lions have risen to an estimated 674 in the Gir forest region and other revenue areas of coastal Saurashtra.
    • There are 161 male, 260 female, 45 sub adult male, 49 sub adult female, 22 unidentified and 137 cubs.
    • The male-female ratio was healthy in the Gir region with 161 males vs 260 females.

The Census

  • The Lion Census is conducted once every five years.
  • This year, the Census was due on June 5-6 this year, but was postponed after the lockdown was announcedon March 24.
  • The first Lion Census was conducted by the Nawab of Junagadh in 1936; since 1965, the Forest Department has been regularly conducting the Lion Census every five years.
  • The 2015 Census had counted 523 lions, up from 411 in 2010. But 12 lions were killed in a flash flood in Amreli just a month after the 2015 cenus, followed by deaths of more than two dozen lions in an outbreak of canine distemper virus (CDV) and babesiosis in 2018.
  • A babesiosis outbreak was reported in Gir (east) this summer too, and around two dozen lions are reported killed.
  • Once seen as threatened by extinction, the lion population has grown by almost 29% from the last count in 2015.
  • Today, Asiatic lions are present in Protected Areas and agro-pastoral landscapes of Saurashtra covering nine districts, over an expanse of about 30,000 sq. km.


What led to this growth?

  • This rise in population is powered by-
    • community participation
    • emphasis on technology
    • wildlife healthcare
    • proper habitat management
    • steps to minimise human-lion conflict
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