Gir National Park
Located in Gujarat in North Western India and comprised of 1,412-sq-km squared of lush deciduous forest, this wildlife sanctuary was set up in 1965 and a 259-sq-km core area became Gir National Park in 1975. It was established to ensure the survival of the Asiatic lion and today it is the last remaining retreat of the Asiatic lion in India.
Towards the end of the 20th Century, British imperialists and Indian maharajahs had hunted India’s lions to the brink of extinction, apart for a small handful in Gir. Thankfully, the Nawab of Junagarh, Saheb Sir Muhammad Rasul Khanji II, realised there were barely any left to shoot and he declared Gir a protected area in 1890.
From a population of 20 Asiatic lions worldwide in 1913, there are now 523 according to 2015 census. Asiatic lions are smaller and paler than African lions and they have become accustomed to jeeps and humans, so a sighting is very likely.
Gir’s landscape is made up of forest, grasslands, rocky hills, wetlands and seven rivers. These gently rolling, densely wooded hills also harbour leopards, panther and other Asian cats, all of which are elusive.
The park is home to a wonderful variety of wildlife, including sloth bears, mongoose, civets, striped hyena, golden jackals, sambar, wild boar, crocodile and over 300 species of birds. Within the park, you can visit the Kankai Mata temple and Tulishyam Hot Springs which are beautiful natural hot springs where visitors can bathe.
The park is also home to tribal people; a nomadic pastoral community called the Maldhari, who live in scattered settlements called nesses; and a community known as the Siddis, who are African in origin but speak Gujarati.
The wildlife at Gir shares its land with Maldhari cattle-breeders. Many of them have been relocated outside the sanctuary but those who remain are faced with the loss of a portion of their herd to the preying lion, for which they are paid compensation by the government.
Features in the following itineraries
- Leslie Siben, India
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
- Jaime Benitez, South India
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
- Mr David Wallace, North India
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka