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GUJARAT

Highest-ever lion count at 359 in Gir sanctuary

Friday 29 April 2005

Between 2001 and 2005, 32 new lions added

GANDHINAGAR: Gujarat today declared the highest-ever increase in the number of Asiatic lions in Gir Sanctuary of Junagarh district with 359 lions being sighted since the census began a year ahead of the usual five-year circle.

The number of Asiatic lions has increased from 327 to 359 in just five years, according to the latest census.

In addition, there were 11 more lions which have not been counted in this census as they have been reserved for visitors’ purpose.

The international figures for satisfactory lion-count are 359 plus or minus ten.

Announcing results of the census carried out in recent weeks, Chief Minister Narendra Modi told a news conference here that, between 2001 and 2005, 32 new lions had been added to the world-famous sanctuary, spread over 1,882-square kilometre area in the coastal district off Arabian Sea.

``There is no need to shift our lions to Madhya Pradesh or any other place for want of open space as we have added another 40 square-km to the sprawling Sanctuary,’’ said Mr Modi while replying to queries.

The first census of big cats had been carried out by Wynter Blyth, Principal of Rajkumar College, Rajkot, in 1950. Ever since, the lion-count is undertaken by the Gujarat Government every five years.

However, this time the Gujarat Forest Department is conducting the lion census a year ahead of the usual five-year circle. Mr Modi pointed out that no baits were used to lure the lions to come out and be counted nor were traditional methods like pug-marking or colour-marking resorted to. The ’Census-2005’ relied on total count of lions by direct sighting in a block-system methodology, he said. - UNI

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