Conservation related issues.
Herbivore Census in Gir forest:
What to study?
For prelims and mains: the census, it’s significance and related key facts.
Context: Every summer, the Forest Department of Gujarat conducts a Herbivore Census in Gir forest. This year’s exercise is of particular significance because it is the last Herbivore Census ahead of next year’s Lion Census, which is a once-in-five-years exercise.
Coverage: The Herbivore Census covers ungulates such as spotted deer, blue bulls (nilgais), sambars, Indian gazelles (chinkaras), four-horned antelopes (choshinga) and wild boars, as well as Indian langurs and peafowl.
Why it matters? Wild ungulates and langurs are the main prey of Asiatic lions, the endangered species whose only wild population in the world is surviving in the 22,000 sq km Greater Gir area. A count provides a sense of the available of the prey base for lions as well as other predators like leopards, hyenas and wolves. A strong prey base can reduce depredation of livestock by lions and can reduce man-animal conflict.
In 2013-14, the last Herbivore Census before the previous Lion Census, the total count of all herbivores was 1.32 lakh, higher than the about 1.25 lakh counted in 2012-13.
Why it’s done in summer? During summer, foliage is reduced to a minimum in dry and deciduous tropical forests, which affords the best visibility for conducting a census. Also, wild animals concentrate around water points, which in Gir include 450 artificial ones filled by the Forest Department.
What has been the herbivore population trend in recent years?
Since 1974, the population of herbivorous in Gir forest has been on the rise. In 2013, the population of ungulates was estimated to be 1,26,893 or 76.49 animals per square kilometres. That translates to 8000 kg of biomass available to carnivorous, very close to the levels in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The population of ungulates was 1,07,172 in 2010. Incidentally, lion census is due in May next year.
Sources: Indian Express.