New Delhi: The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on Thursday launched the 'Asiatic Lion Conservation Project' with an aim to protect and conserve the world's last ranging free population of Asiatic Lion and its associated ecosystem. The decision came two days after three asiatic lions were run over by a goods train in Gir. "The Asiatic Lion Conservation Project will strengthen the ongoing measures for conservation and recovery of Asiatic Lion with the help of state-of-the-art techniques, regular scientific research studies, disease management, modern surveillance techniques," Union Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan said at a review meeting.
The minister said the total budget of the project for 3 years will be funded through a Centrally sponsored scheme, the Development of Wildlife Habitat, with the contributing ratio of 60:40 for central and state share. Asiatic Lions which once ranged from Persia (Iran) to Palamau in Eastern India had almost been driven to extinction by indiscriminate hunting and habitat loss.
A single population of less than 50 lions persisted in the Gir forests of Gujarat by late 1890's. With stringent protection offered by the state and the Central governments, Asiatic lions have increased to the current population of over 500. The 2015 census showed a population of 523 Asiatic Lions in the Gir Protected Area Network of 1648.79 sq.km.