The population of Gir lions — the last of the Asiatic lion species — has increased to 411, registering a 13 per cent growth in five years, Chief Minister Narendra Modi announced here on Sunday.
The last census, held in 2005, had put their number at 359.
Gir lions are found only in Gir sanctuary and surrounding areas in Saurashtra of Gujarat.
“Gir and its environments have helped the lion to survive in the state,” said Modi, releasing the findings of the once-in-a-five-year census process, which was held from April 24 to 27.
The chief minister had launched the state's yearlong golden jubilee celebrations — Swarnim Gujarat — on Saturday.
Of the total 411 lions, 259 are adults - 97 male and 162 female showing a male-female ratio of 1:1.67.
The remaining 152 are below three years — 77 cubs less than 12 months old and 75 sub-adults in the age group of 1-3.
For the first time, Geographical Information System and Global Positioning System were used to arrive at the accurate number of the big cats roaming in region.
“There can be some cats, which we might have missed during the census. But even in case of a variation, we are sure the number is more or less accurate,” S.K. Nanda, principal secretary, department of environment and forests, told Hindustan Times.
Unlike tiger census where pugmarks are counted, the lion census was conducted using beat verification method, which is foolproof and faster.
The four-day process involved 135 forest officers, 450 enumerators, 900 assistants, 100 volunteers, 50 photographers, 12 doctors, 11 researchers, 200 jeeps, 450 bikes and 470 GPS devices. It was held in two phases.
During the process, it was observed that the population of other species, including ungulates, had also increased in the 1,400 sq km area of the national park and sanctuary, forest officials said.