India’s population of endangered Asiatic lions has increased by 27% since 2010, a great victory for the species.
Found only in the Gir forest of Gujarat, the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) is the smaller cousin of the African lion and has a fold of skin along its stomach. They were once critically endangered but have steadily increased.
Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel stated that this year, officials tallied 523 lions total, over five days in May in the 7,700 square mile or 20,000 square kilometer sanctuary and surrounding forest. Patel states:
“There are 109 male lions, 201 females and 213 cubs in the Gir sanctuary and nearby forest areas of Junagadh district.”
2,500 people, including wildlife experts from India’s top universities, used direct sightings, photographs and GPS tracking to document the lions and avoid double counting.
The census showed 359 in 2005 and 411 lions in 2010, making this year’s 523 a triumphant 27% population increase over the last five years. However, while the rise in numbers is a victory for the lions, it poses new challenges managing habitat and conflict with humans. World Wildlife Fun India director Diwakar Sharma says:
“This is good news on the conservation front but bigger populations in bigger areas increases the challenge of managing land, human and animal conflict.”
There is a great deal of international scrutiny over India’s conservation efforts because it is home to several endangered species. Fortunately, conservation in India is being recognized today, as various populations have experienced increases in the recent years, including a 30% increase for tigers since 2010.
Featured Image: Shaunak Modi / CC BY 2.0