Why in news?
- Every summer, the Forest Department of Gujarat conducts an Herbivore Census in Gir forest in May.
- 2019’s exercise was of particular significance as it was the last Herbivore Census ahead of 2020’s Lion Census, which is held once in five years.
- 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.
- 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 availability 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.
- During summer, as foliage is reduced to a minimum in dry and deciduous tropical forests, the conditions afford the best visibility for conducting a census.
- The wild animals concentrate around water points including the 450 artificial ones filled by the Forest Department.
- The population of herbivores in Gir forest has been on the rise since 1974.
- In 2010, the population of ungulates was 1, 07,172.
- The population of ungulates in 2013 was estimated to be 1, 26,893 or 76.49 animals per square kilometres, translating to 8000 kg of biomass available to carnivores.
- This was very close to the levels in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park.