Wildlife enthusiasts have a lot to cheer about the latest lion census released by Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel on 10th May 2015. As per the census, the population of Asiatic Lions was found to have increased from 411 (in the last census of 2010) to 523 now.
Incidentally, the Gir forest is now the only place in Asia where Asiatic Lions are found. The census was carried out by more than 10,000 volunteers and was spread across 5 days. As per the data released, the team found 109 adult males, 201 adult females, and 213 cubs and sub-adults distributed across the 4 districts of Amreli, Bhavnagar, Junagadh and Gir Somnath.
The Asiatic lion is one of the 5 big cat species found in India, apart from Bengal tiger, Indian leopard, snow leopard and clouded leopard.[Wikipedia]
In an interview given to The Hindu, C.N. Pandey, Principal Conservator of Forests, said that the Maldhari community living near the forest area was instrumental in these conservation efforts. As part of a government initiative, around 300 Vanya Prani Saathis (friends of forest animals) were recruited and asked to ensure that lions were not killed even if they strayed into the nearby villages.
To ensure better validation of data, this census marked the presence of an animal only when physically sighted and not based on pug marks, he added.