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Two-day herbivore census begins in Gir


The two-day annual census of herbivores in Gir Forest and National Park began on Monday. The count will determine the prey base for the lions in the area. A year later (in May 2015) the main census of Asiatic lions in Saurashtra will be conducted. The herbivore census is being carried out across greater Gir, that is, in forest areas across Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar. These are the districts where the lion population is largely concentrated. According to the lion census of May 2010, the greater Gir area has around 411 lions.


Officials in the forest department said the herbivore census is something of a curtain raiser as it would give a fair idea of the lion population in the state. This would help the department prepare for the final count of lions which will be taken up in May 2015. Lions prey on ungulates (hoofed mammals). A healthy population of these mammals in Gir forests is cited to be one of the reasons why the big cats have survived there. Around 75,000 ungulates were recorded in Gir during the 2013 census. "Around 50 teams have fanned out on 19 routes and hypothetical divisions identified in the national park and protected forests to assess the exact number of herbivores," said an official.


The count will be taken up in two phases. Members of each team travel in the area to get an idea of the total number of herbivores in the sanctuary. The counting is done two times a day, he said. The exercise covers a survey of ungulates like spotted deer, sambar, blue bulls or roj, four-horned antelope, Indian gazelle (chinkara), wild boars and langurs. Peacocks too would be counted in the census.


Times of India, Delhi, Tuesday 6th May 2014