Wildlife conservationists have managed to bring the population of Asiatic lions from only 50 to an estimated 500 in the Gir Forest of Gujarat, India. Accurate estimation of the existing number is now required in order to come up with the next conservation efforts to increase their presence in the forest. However, with conventional ways of monitoring, especially through total counts, there is a possibility of missing out certain lions while double-counting the rest. Also, it tends to provide limited information on the spatial density, thereby providing unreliable data.
However, in a recent study, researcher Keshab Gogoi and his colleagues from the Wildlife Institute of India have come up with an alternative way to monitor the population of these Asiatic lions. They have made use of permanent body marks and whisker patterns to be more accurate in identifying the actual lion population in the Gir Forests. The method will make use of a computer program which will help analyse the data using a mathematical modelling method called 'spatially explicit capture-recapture' which will give an estimate lion density. The Indian scientist and his associates have also assessed the prey density and other such factors that may have an influence on lion density.
Keshab Gogoi and his team have also analysed the factors that impacted the lion’s density in a specific area. They identified 67 individual lions out of 368 lion sightings within 725 square kilometres of the Gir Forests, which revealed an overall density of about 8.53 lions per 100 square kilometres.
Their findings also suggested that the prey density isn’t really a factor for the density of lions in a particular area. In fact, there was a larger density of lions in flat valley locations instead of rocky and elevated areas. The study also found out that the density was much less around areas and sites where food was usually placed to lure them out for tourists to view them.
(with inputs from agencies)