As the nation goes for its decennial census, Gir lions — the last of the Asiatic lion species — are also being counted.
The census of a species found exclusively in Gujarat comes at a time when the state is launching its yearlong state formation celebrations.
The once-in-a-five-year process will begin on Saturday and continue until Tuesday. The findings are likely to be announced on May 1, when Gujarat marks its foundation day.
For the first time, Geographical Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) will be used to arrive at the accurate number of the big cats roaming in the Gir national park and sanctuary in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. The last census, held in 2005, put their number at 269, plus or minus 10.
Estimates of the Gujarat forest department show the present population as 359.
In the last five years there have been about 160 natural deaths of lions at the sanctuary, officials said. The exact number of new births is not known. Officials expect the number of lions in the 1,600 square km area and surroundings to exceed 400.