The census of Asiatic lions in Gujarat’s Gir Wildlife Sanctuary has been postponed amid the 40-day nationwide lockdown imposed to counter the coronavirus pandemic, according to a senior forest official in the state.
The counting exercise, which takes place every five years, was slated to begin next month.
Till Thursday (23 April), Gujarat reported 2,407 coronavirus cases and 103 deaths due to the deadly virus.
“In view of the lockdown, the lion census will not take place in May. A decision on the census will be taken only after things become clear on the coronavirus situation and the lockdown, Chief Conservator of Forest, Junagadh division, DT Vasavda told a news agency.
The official said that preparation for the same was in full swing till the COVID-19 outbreak brought everything to a standstill.
“Initially, it was decided to conduct the census in May and then it was postponed to June, but now it all depends on the situation,” the official said.
The forests remain closed during the monsoon season from June-end to October, which is also the mating period for the lions, thus going ahead with the counting exercise during that period is highly unlikely.
The Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in the state is the only natural habitat for the majestic Asiatic lions. During the last census conducted in May 2015, 523 lions were found in the Gir forest.
The number of Asiatic lions in the region has seen a steady growth in recent years, courtesy conservation efforts from the state after their numbers dropped to just over a dozen in the early twentieth century.
At present, lions are found in seven districts—Junagadh, Amreli, Bhavnagar, Gir Somnath, Botad, Porbandar and Rajkot—surrounding the Gir forest area.
Two years backs, lions in Gir faced a threat of infectious diseases.
The state government in February last year said as many as 34 lions died in 2018 due to various diseases, including the canine distemper virus.