The Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary
The Gir National Park is located in western India. The major drawing point of this national park is its Asiatic Lions (Panthera leo persiaca).
The Asiatic lion was once widely distributed in Asia Minor and Arabia through Persia to India. In India, the Asiatic lion was found throughout the northern and central states of India. Before the close of the 19th century, the Asiatic lion was hunted to extinct in its range, except in the Gir National Park where the number of Asiatic lion was believed to be about a dozen. Asiatic lions struggled to survive during one of the most severe famines during the early 1900’s. After 1911 lion hunting in India was rigidly controlled by the British Administration and during the year 1913, the Chief Forest Officer reported that there were about 20 Asiatic lions in the Gir Forests. The Gir National Park is now home to about 300 Asiatic lions. The increase in India’s human population has resulted in a shrinkage of the Asiatic Lion’s habitat and now the Gir National Park is the last refuge of this endangered animal. Now the Gir National Park is the only place in the world, outside Africa, where the lion can be seen in its natural habitat.
The Asiatic lion is a slightly smaller subspecies than its larger African cousin. Much of the male Asiatic lion’s time is spent sleeping in the shade, while the lionesses do both the hunting and the raising of the cubs. When a kill has been made, the male lion is usually the first to come and claim his share, while the lionesses wait for their turn. The Gir National Park is known all over the world as the last sanctuary of the Asiatic lion.
A jeep safari is a great way to experience the Gir National Park; however, one still needs a permit before heading off into the forest. A permit can be obtained at the Sinh Sadan Forest Lodge office before starting down one of the jungle trails. Near the park’s waterholes, observation platforms (known as “machans”) and hides have been raised to allow visitors a closer look of the park’s lions. Dawn and dusk are the best times to observe the Asiatic lion in Gir National Park, as the animals are usually more active at these times. The Gir forest offers a unique habitat for a number of other species of wildlife, including ratel, civet, rusty spotted cat, ruddy mongoose, and pangolin to name a few. See the following checklists for more wildlife found in the Gir National Park ( Birds of the Gir National Park – Checklist, Mammals of the Gir National Park – Checklist and Reptiles of the Gir National Park – Checklist).
There are four major types of habitat in the Gir National Park. First is the Teak forest which occurs in nearly half of this national park. The Teak forest includes the following species of tree: Khair, Sadad, Timru, Babul, Amla, Moledi, Dhavdo, Kadayo and Bahedo. The second habitat type is the non-Teak forest which includes the following species of tree: Khair, Dhavdo, Sadad, Timru, Amla, Moledi, Kadayo, Salai, Simal, Khakhro, Ber and Asundro. The third type of habitat is found along the major rivers and streams of the park and include the following plants: Jambu, Karanj, Umro, Vad, Kalam, Charal, Sirus and Amli. The fourth habitat includes Prosopis and Casuarina that were planted in the coastal border.
Gir National Park – More Information