Lion count tempers tiger gloom
OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Gandhinagar, May 2: Amid the gloom of 1,411, has come the joy of 411.
Gir’s Asiatic lion population has jumped to 411, heartening animal lovers but also giving Narendra Modi a chance to reaffirm his opposition to lion relocation outside Gujarat.
The chief minister today announced the lion population had jumped 14.4 per cent from the 359 counted by the 2005 census, adding: “This heartening news is Gujarat’s gift to the world.”
The result of the latest census, carried out from April 24 to 27, comes after reports that the country’s tiger population has declined to 1,411. Wildlife experts’ happiness will, however, be tempered by Modi ruling out any relocation of the lions — “Gujarat’s pride”. Experts have advocated relocation citing the overcrowding and low gene diversity at Gir.
Modi, however, seized on the “record” growth to claim credit for his wildlife policies, such as the covering up of wells. “We used to lose 10 cubs on an average every year to the open wells. Last year, we lost only one,” he said.
He cited a second reason too: the high female-to-male ratio of 1.67:1 among the lions. “The incidents of male lions devouring cubs have decreased with the females bunching together to ward off such attempts,” Modi said.