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gir national park

About Gir National Park


GIR NATIONAL PARK

The Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is a forest and wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat, India. Established in 1965, with a total area of 1412 km (about 258 km² for the fully protected area (the national park) and 1153 km for the Sanctuary), the park is located 65 km to the south-east of Junagadh and 60 km to south west of Amreli.

It is the sole home of the pure Asiatic Lions (Panthera leo persica) and is considered to be one of the most important protected areas in Asia due to its supported species. The ecosystem of Gir, with its diverse flora and fauna, is protected as a result of the efforts of the government forest department, wildlife activists and NGOs. The forest area of Gir and its lions were declared as protected in the early by the then Nawab of the princely state of Junagadh. This initiative assisted in the conservation of the lions whose population had plummeted to only 15 through slaughter for trophy hunting.

The April 2010 census recorded the lion-count in Gir at 411, an increase of 52 compared to 2005. The lion breeding programme covering the park and surrounding area has bred about 180 lions in captivity since its inception.


Flora

Most of the area is rugged hills, with high ridges and densely forested valleys, wide grassland plateaus, and isolated hilltops. Around half of the forested area of the park is teak forest, with other trees such as khair, dhavdo, timru, amla, and many others. The other half is non-teak forest, with samai, simal, khakhro and asundro jambu, umro, amli, vad and kalam; mostly broadleaf and evergreen trees. The river Hiran is the only one to flow year-round; the rest are seasonal. There are also areas of the park with open scrub and savannah-type grassland.


Deer and Antelope

This variety of vegetation provides for a huge array of animals. The most-sighted animal in the park, the chital, or Indian spotted deer, inhabits the dry and mixed deciduous forest, with a population of over 32,000. The more reclusive sambar, the largest of the Indian deer species, weighing 300-500 kg, lives in the wetter western part of the park. Both the sambar and the chausingha, the world's only 4-horned antelope (chau= four, singha= horns), are very dependent on water, and rarely found far from a water source. Another one-of-a-kind is the chinkara, the only gazelle in the world with horns in both males and females. The fastest of the Indian antelopes, the blackbuck, also lives in Gir, but has a relatively small population here compared to Velavadar National Park (near Bhavnagar), as it prefers open grasslands to forests.


Wild Cats

Along with the famous lions, who number around 350, the park is also home to four other wild cats. There are around 300 leopards, though they are nocturnal and thus harder to spot. Of the three smaller wildcats, the jungle cat is the most widespread, and lives in deciduous scrub and riverine areas. The mysterious desert cat is almost never seen. The rusty spotted cat, previously thought to only live in the Dangs of southeast Gujarat, has only recently been found in Gir.


Other animals and reptiles

The top and middle canopies of the dry, mixed and riverine decidous forests are home to troops of hanuman langur monkeys. The striped hyena is usually seen scavenging alone in the grasslands and scrub forest, far more solitary than the African hyena. Wild boars rooting into the ground for tuber provide aeration of the soil. If you look closer, you may see smaller mammals like pangolins, pale hedgehogs, Indian hares, or grey musk shrews. The ratel or honey badger is renowned for its snake-killing exploits, earning it the “most fearless animal” title in the Guinness Book of World Records. Another snake-killer in Gir is the ruddy mongoose; the snakes they contend with include the common krait, russell’s viper, and the saw-scaled viper. The Kamaleshwar reservoir now houses the largest population of marsh crocodiles in the country. Other reptiles include the soft-shelled turtle, star tortoise, Indian rock python and monitor lizard (which grows to over 1.5 m long; don’t look for the lizards that live in your yard.)


Birds

Gir is also home to more kinds of birds than any other park in Gujarat, yet somehow is not known for its birdlife. While it may not have the half-million flamingoes found in Kutch during breeding season, Gir is home to over 300 species of birds, many of which can be seen year-round, from the Malabar whistling thrush to the Paradise flycatcher, from the crested serpent eagle to the king vulture, from pelicans to painted storks. The noted ornithologist Dr. Salim Ali said that if there were no lions here, Gir would be well-known as one of the best bird sanctuaries in western India.


The Asiatic Lion

Until the early 19th century, Asiatic lions roamed an immense area of South and Southwest Asia, as far east as Greece and as far west as modern Bangladesh. As humanity has lived in this region for millennia, people coexisted with lions for thousands of years, but in the last few centuries, the growth of the human population has come at the cost of the lions’ habitat. Like the Bengal Tiger and the Asiatic Cheetah, lions saw a dramatic decline in population as their preferred habitat of grasslands and semi-forested areas became overrun with humans. Beyond just habitat reduction, though, once guns arrived and became widespread, from 1800-1860, nearly all the lions remaining outside Gujarat were hunted and killed. The last Asiatic lions in India outside of Gir forest were killed in 1886 at Rewah, and the last wild lion sighted the world outside Gir was in Iran in 1941.


gir national park