Project Lion


Project Lion is a 47-page publication advancing the proposal for the eponymous project announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 15, 2020. It was prepared by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, in consultation with the Forest Department, Government of Gujarat. The stated goal for Project Lion is to ensure that Asiatic lions “perform their ecological role in the ecosystem and retain their evolutionary potential.”

The proposal deems the attempts made for conserving Asiatic lions in the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, Gujarat, a “conservation success story”. Between 2015-20, there was a 29 per cent increase in the number of Asiatic lions found in Gujarat. The proposal calls for a greater involvement of local communities in ensuring both the expansion and the improvement of lion habitats. It states that lions are reaching areas in Gujarat with greater human population and communities unaccustomed to their presence. Mitigating potential human-wildlife conflict is an important objective of Project Lion, the proposal adds.

The proposal emphasises on the need to increase areas which serve as dedicated habitats for lions. It suggests steps for doing so, including “incentivized voluntary relocation” of the maldharis – the local pastoral community – out of the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary and the Barda Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat. It also presents a list of potential sites where Asiatic lions from the forests of Gir can be introduced and populated. The proposal delineates a plan to further the attempts made towards relocating Asiatic lions to the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh. This relocation, it states, had been devised in the year 1995 to prevent the total extinction of Asiatic lions from the country in the event of epidemics or natural calamities. The Kuno National Park had seen the presence of lions in “medieval times”, the proposal claims. In comparison to the Saurashtra region in Gujarat where the Gir forests are located, Kuno has a low density of human and livestock population. These factors make Kuno National Park a suitable location for translocating lions.  

In addition to Kuno, the proposal recommends six other areas where Asiatic lions could be relocated. They are: Madhav National Park, Madhya Pradesh; Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan; Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan; Gandhi Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh; Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan; Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary, Balaram-Ambaji Wildlife Sanctuary and the adjoining forests in northwestern Gujarat. For each of these sites, the proposal provides information on area, location, biogeographic zone, the type of vegetation and wildlife found and anthropogenic pressures from human activities. It also presents a list of measures and interventions which can be undertaken to make these areas conducive to the conservation of lions.


  1. The proposal advocates for the expansion of lion habitats in areas beyond the Gir Forests. However, the lack of genetic diversity in Asiatic lions decreases their chances of adapting to changing conditions and makes them susceptible to diseases. This, the proposal states, calls for both demographic and genetic management of the species.

  2. The proposal states that due to overgrazing by livestock, many areas in lion habitats have become infested with invasive weeds and shrubs of various kinds.

  3. Community participation must be made an essential aspect of Project Lion, the proposal notes. It suggests employing the “sense of pride and responsibility” of the local communities towards the wildlife to promote an "information-sharing and monitoring mechanism." Young people can be given the task of mediating between government authorities and the local communities.

  4. The proposal suggests that creating livelihoods through eco-tourism can be a handy way of gaining the support of local communities for Project Lion.

  5. Forest departments in Gujarat and other states have begun providing machans – defined as raised watch stations used for crop protection – to farmers working in and around lion habitats. This lessens the risk of human-wildlife conflict and has been gladly received by the local farming communities, the proposal notes. In addition to this, the proposal recommends electric power fencing and insurance schemes for crop or livestock damage for mitigating such conflicts.

  6. The proposal encourages research into the maximum lion population which can be sustained in locations recommended as potential sites for introducing lions. It also promotes research into the ecological and social carrying capacity of the Saurashtra region in western Gujarat.

  7. One of the primary objectives of Project Lion is increasing the extent of lion habitats and ensuring the better management of these sites. The proposal states that this can be achieved only if the expanse of the Gir National Park – currently at 259 square kilometres – is increased to 1,000 square kilometres.

    Focus and Factoids by Dipanjali Singh.


Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and Forest Department, Government of Gujarat


Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and Forest Department, Government of Gujarat


15 Sep, 2020