Gir National Park, Gujarat

Sasan Gir is another name for Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a forest, national park, and wildlife sanctuary close to Talala Gir in Gujarat. It is situated 60 kilometers southwest of Amreli, 65 kilometers southeast of Junagadh, and 43 kilometers northeast of Somnath. It has a total area of 1,412 square kilometers, of which 258 square kilometers are completely protected as a national park and 1,153 square kilometers as a wildlife sanctuary.

With a wide variety of fauna and an inviting historical setting, it is India’s largest cat sanctuary. It was founded in 1965 in the former Nawab of Junagarh’s private hunting area. It belongs to the ecoregion of Khathiar-Gir dry deciduous forests. With teak, the flame of the forest, ber, and a variety of acacia trees, just approximately 10% of the park is wooded, and it does seem a little neglected. On the other hand, this vegetation serves as a good habitat for tawny Asiatic lions and is a representative of the ancient vegetation. Rivers and streams carve deep valleys and rocky outcrops through the low, undulating hills.

In May 2015, the 14th Asiatic Lion Census was carried out. The population was 523 in 2015. (27 percent up compared to the previous census in 2010). The population increased from 359 in 2005 to 411 in 2010. A total of 268 lions were present in the Junagadh District, 44 in the Gir Somnath district, 174 in the Amreli District, and 37 in the Bhavnagar District. There are 213 cubs, 201 females, and 109 males total.

When is Gir National Park formed?

The main reason Sasan Gir National Park was created in 1965 was to preserve the declining number of Asiatic lions. It has achieved great success. The monarchs of Indian princely states used to invite British colonists on hunting expeditions during the 19th century. Only a handful of Asiatic lions remained in India by the end of the 19th century, and they were all located in the Gir Forest, which was a portion of the Nawab of Junagarh’s exclusive hunting grounds. Viceroys from the British government alerted the Nawab of Junagadh, who created the sanctuary, to the sharp reduction in the lion population in Gir.

Today, it is the only place in Asia where Asiatic lions can be found, and because of its biodiversity, it is regarded as one of the most significant protected areas in Asia. The government’s forest department, wildlife activists, and NGOs worked together to safeguard the Gir environment and its varied flora and fauna. It is currently regarded as Gujarat’s ecological resources’ crown jewel.

Geography of Gir National Park

Gir National Park is located in the state of Gujarat. It is located 43 kilometres to the northeast of Somnath, 65 kilometres to the southeast of Junagadh, and 60 kilometres to the southwest of Amreli. Its overall size is 1,412 square kilometres, of which 1,153 square kilometres are designated as a wildlife sanctuary and 258 square kilometres serve as national parks with total protection. It can be found between 21°08′08′′N and 70°47′48′′E.

The Gir region’s seven principal perennial rivers are the Hiran, Shetrunji, Dhatarvadi, Shingoda, Machhundri, Ambajal, and Raval. The area’s four reservoirs are located at four dams, one on each of the Hiran, Machhundri, Raval, and Shingoda rivers. The Kamleshwar Dam, known as “the lifeline of Gir,” is home to the largest reservoir in the region.

Flora of Sasan Gir National Park

In the survey of the Gir forest conducted by Samtapau & Raizada in 1955, more than 400 plant species were identified. During their survey, the M.S. University of Baroda’s botany department revised the number to 507 species.

The eastern part of the forest, which makes up over half of the entire area, has the majority of the teak bearing areas. There are numerous acacia species. Ber, jamun (Syzygium cumini), babul (acacia), flame of the forest, zizyphus, tendu, and dhak can also be found in this area. Additionally, there are flora like karanj, umlo, amli, sirus, kalam, and charal, as well as the occasional vad or banyan tree. These broadleaf trees give the area a cool canopy and moisture content. Casuarina and prosopis have been planted along Gir’s coast borders as part of the afforestation effort.

Fauna of Gir National Park

The forest is a significant region for biological research and has significant benefits for science, education, aesthetics, and enjoyment. By harvesting it every year, it supplies around 5 million kilogrammes of green grass, which is worth about 500 million yen (US$7.12 million). Every year, the forest provides roughly 123,000 metric tonnes of fuel wood.

There are around 38 species of mammals, 300 species of birds, 37 species of reptiles, and more than 2,000 kinds of insects among Gir’s 2,375 diverse species of fauna. The Asiatic lion, Indian leopard, jungle cat, striped hyena, golden jackal, Bengal fox, Indian grey mongoose and ruddy mongoose, and honey badger are the principal members of the carnivores group.

There are Asiatic wildcats and rusty-spotted cats, but they are uncommon. Chital, nilgai, sambar, four-horned antelope, chinkara, and wild boar are the primary herbivores in Gir. Blackbucks from the neighbourhood can occasionally be sighted in the sanctuary. Porcupine and hare are frequent among the smaller mammals, but pangolins are uncommon.

The Indian cobra, mugger crocodile, tortoise, and monitor lizard are examples of reptiles that live in the water bodies of the sanctuary. In the trees and bushes, snakes can be discovered. On occasion, pythons have been seen along the stream banks. The Gujarat State Forest Department has made use of Gir by releasing around 1000 marsh crocodiles into Lake Kamaleshwar and other nearby small bodies of water as part of the Indian Crocodile Conservation Project, which was established in 1977.

More than 300 species of birds make up the avifauna population, the majority of which are permanent residents. There are six known species of vultures in the scavenging category of birds. Crested serpent eagle, changeable hawk-eagle, brown fish owl, Indian eagle-owl, rock bush quail, Indian peafowl, brown-capped pygmy woodpecker, black-headed oriole, crested treeswift, and Indian pitta are a few of the typical species found in Gir. From the most recent census in 2001, the Indian grey hornbill was not discovered.

Asiatic lion: The Pride of Gir National Park

Asiatic Lion, Gir National park
Image Source: Wikipedia

The habitat of the Asiatic lion consists of open deciduous forest and arid scrub terrain. The number of lions climbed from 411 in 2010 to 523 in 2015, and they are all found in or close to Gir National Park.

The Asiatic lion was designated a protected species in 1900, when the population was thought to be as low as 100. In a 1936 census, 289 animals were counted. Between 1948 and 1963, Mark Alexander Wynter-Blyth, the principal of Rajkumar College in Rajkot, and R.S. Dharmakumarsinhji conducted the first modern lion count; a further survey in 1968 revealed that since 1936, the population had decreased to 162.

There have been incidents of Asiatic lions being poached even though the Gir Forest is tightly protected. Additionally, they have been poisoned as payback for attacking cattle. Other dangers include the potential for diseases, fires, floods, and other natural disasters. The most promising long-term preserve for them is still Gir. Lions attacked livestock and humans outside the Gir Forest from 1899 to 1901, when there was a protracted drought. The Junagadh kings began compensating cattle losses after 1904. Nowadays, Gir National Park’s lions hardly ever attack humans.

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