Asiatic lionesses play in the shade of a tree near the village of Sasan, on the edge of Gir National Park, some 480km southwest of Ahmedabad.
India yesterday began a five-yearly count of Asiatic lions in Gujarat’s Gir sanctuary, the last habitat for the endangered big cats globally, an official said.
The last census in 2010 revealed 411 lions were living in the 20,000sq km sanctuary up from 359 lions in 2005, with officials expecting to record a significant increase in the number of wild cats.
“The census that began today will continue until May 5 in five districts of the state. The lions which have migrated outside the sanctuary will also be counted,” principal chief conservator of forests C N Pandey said.
Officials said the experts conducting the census would use a combination of direct sightings, photographs and GPS tracking technology to document each lion and avoid double counting.
Around 2,500 people, including wildlife experts from India’s top universities, are participating in the counting process, with the final results expected on May 10.
India faces intense international scrutiny over its conservation efforts because it is home to many endangered species, including tigers.
But in January its conservation efforts were hailed by experts after 2,226 tigers were spotted in a country-wide census, a 30% increase in the population from 2010, when the figure was 1,706.
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