Lion census from April 24, count could go beyond 400

Posted by: Hitesh Kamaliya on

Ahmedabad: This is going to be a census that will be closely watched by many, given the fact that it is being conducted after a period that saw poaching incidents for the first time in Gir and when neighbour Madhya Pradesh became more aggressive in its demand for a share of the Asiatic lions.
The once-in-five-years census will be carried out for four days from April 24 in a direct-sighting method which will involve nearly 1,500 staffers. Teams will be equipped with 130 cameras and they will hover around the watering holes where lions are bound to come to quench their thirst during this hot summer period. It will take at least two months before the results

are out, after careful tabulation of data and matching it with the photographic evidence.

Stray accidental deaths notwithstanding, the going has been good for the lion in its exclusive abode in Gir, with the Gujarat government promising expansion of its protected habitat and a Rs 40-crore corpus for its conservation. Sources say this time

the lion count is likely to go up to 400 from the last figure of 359 of 2005. Besides, the lion is poised to be one of the state's biggest draws in the soon-to-be launched campaigns featuring Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan.

The Gujarat government has told the Supreme Court that there could be 400 lions in and around Gir, a clear evidence of good conservation measures. MP government, which has prepared Kuno Palpur as the lion's second abode, had a dig at Gujarat recently in its last affidavit filed before the SC, stating that if at least 10 lions died unnaturally in Gujarat, then the state could surely afford to part with five lions. It is another matter that the gangs of poachers arrested in Gujarat have all come from MP.

Digital cameras to help count lion population

Ahmedabad: For the first time, 130-odd digital cameras will be used to count Asiatic lions over four days, as the census covering the districts of Junagadh, Amreli, Porbandar and Bhavnagar begins on April 24.

Divisional conservator of forest Sandeep Kumar told TOI that all the four districts will be divided into 28 zones. The zones will further have 100 subzonal heads who would be armed with digital cameras. The census will be conducted by direct sighting method, particularly around water bodies where lions are expected to come to quench their thirst.

Kumar said that apart from recording on paper, each subzonal head would also try and take a picture to create a unique identification bank for the lions. The parameters for identification include shape or marks on ear, nose and face, the tail, and the sides of the lion. Officials said that to prevent duplication, the photographs would also register the time and details of the camera from which they were taken.

Kumar said 450 enumerators, assisted by 900 others, would be deployed in the census. This means each team, headed by a sub-zonal chief, would have about 12 members to conduct the census by direct sighting method. A team of 56 volunteers will also accompany them to provide food or attend to any other kind of emerge