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April 10, 2010

Lion census at Gir Forest Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajkot

     Rajkot (Gujarat): The forest officials here are all set to conduct a comprehensive and methodological lion census at the Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajkot. A team comprising more than 1600 people, including forest officials, regional officers, zonal officers, enumerators and volunteers, will conduct the census at the national park from April 23 to 27. Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Sandeep Kumar said, the preparations for the census are on for the last nine months and the lions are being closely monitored in their natural habitat. Kumar said that the forest officials are expecting an increase in the lion population as recorded in the previous census. During the 2005 census, 359 lions were found in Gir. "If you see the population of the lions in the last 6-7 census continuously, the trend of the population shows that there is an increase in every census. This time of course, we are expecting an increase in the population," said Kumar. "We will know the exact number after finishing the census. But the resident area of the lions has also seen an increase in comparison to last 4-5 years where they were staying," he added. Besides the national forest area, the lions can also be located in the reserve forest area, protected forest area outside the Gir sanctuary, other wastelands and the villages in the region. Kumar further said scientific tools of mapping like the Geographical Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) are being used in this year's census keeping into account a large area of their habitat. "We are using the Geographical Information System (GIS) this time extensively for our preparation purposes. We are also using the Global Positioning System (GPS) to know their exact location, said Kumar. "On that basis, we can say what is the composition of land and where they are exactly located during the census period. We will plot it on the GIS map," he added. The officials also plan to take photographs of all the lions, lionesses and cubs found, so that they can have photographical evidence and records of the species. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is expected to announce the census on May 1, when the state celebrates its foundation day.
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