AHMEDABAD: The lion census may be due in 2020, but if chief minister Vijay Rupani is to be believed, in less than three years the lion population in the state has jumped from 523 (2015 census) to 600 registering a 15% growth. A government release mentioned the chief minister, while inaugurating a seminar, “Big Cats: Predators Under Threat,” organized in Sasan, said, “With the support of the common people and environment friendly policies, the number of lions in the state have increased approximately to 600.”
The CM also said, “The state government had provisioned a fund of Rs 40 crore in 2007 to protect the Asiatic lions when Narandra Modi was chief minister. The state government has taken the initiative forward in the proper direction by allocating adequate fund for ‘Project Lion’.” About the number of lions a former principal chief conservator of forest said, “Usually the census is taken up every five years. The next census of lions is due in 2020 and it is only after the count that such figures are announced. For its own monitoring, the Gujarat government has been keeping a count of lions every full moon, but this is only for purpose of record and it is never made public.” However, the CM might have been briefed by some forest official who would have given him the count casually and the CM declared it in his speech. It is worth recalling that the annual growth rate after the 2015 census was around 5%. The May 2015 lion census had pegged the lion population at 523. The number had increased by 112 as compared to 2010 census.
Forest officials said that the population growth of lions between 2010 and 2015 was of around 27% which was an annual growth rate of 5%. “The growth of over 5% per annum between 2010 and 2015 continues even after 2017. However, one will have to wait for the final count which will be declared in 2020 only,” said a senior officer.