Starting 2 p.m. on June 5, some 1,400 forest personnel, armed with binoculars, cameras and spreadsheets fanned out across dry deciduous and thorny scrub forests, fields and villages in and around Gujarat’s Gir National Park to count the world’s only remaining Asiatic lion population. The survey was over in 24 hours. And within the next few days the tally was announced.
The lion population, said the State forest department, had increased significantly by 29%, from 523 five years ago to 674. The department also said that the big cat’s distribution had increased to 30,000 sq.km. from 22,000 sq.km., covering nine districts in Saurashtra. All this despite the scourge of the canine distemper virus (CDV) outbreak in 2018 that killed 36 lions.