Tracing the Rich and Compelling History of Gir National Park

Gir National Park is the Asiatic lion’s regal kingdom and the only area where these magnificent animals roam freely. The most well-known wildlife sanctuary is a haven for all outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife photographers. The extent of the national park is 545 square miles (1,412 square kilometers).

Seven perennial rivers traverse the park, and four dams have produced four reservoirs. The seven rivers are Datardi, Godavari, Hiran, Machhundri, Raval, Shetrunji, and Shingoda. As a wildlife sanctuary, the national park protects the Asiatic lion population, which has been growing recently. A dry deciduous forest with teak trees throughout the park, consisting of hilly terrain and arid scrubland.

For the trip of a lifetime, go to the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary! On your thrilling retreat, see some of India’s wildest animals in action, travel through Gujarat’s breathtaking landscapes, learn about remote civilizations, and gain a sense of maintaining the ecological balance. Also, read about the fascinating history of Gir National Park.

History of Gir National Park 

These creatures saw a sharp decline in population around the beginning of the 20th century. Gir National Park is unique because it is covered with deciduous trees. The deciduous jungle accompanies semi-evergreen trees, meadows, scrub jungles, acacia, and rocky slopes.

The primary draw for tourists is Gir’s abundant and resident biodiversity. People hunt in the forests to see these magnificent animals. Gir National Park is one of India’s most beautiful natural areas.

Travel back in time, and it started in the 1900s when just about fifteen lions were left. For sport, trophy hunters killed the lions. The British governors started noticing it and brought it to the attention of Junagadh’s Nawab.

The Nawab pledged to cease killing lions and started work to protect them. Lord Curzon, one of the rulers, asked the Nawab directly to save the lions. The Gir forest soon became a protected area, and he also made killing these animals illegal.

Other factors were at play, making preserving the Gir National Park essential. No different location in India has a dry deciduous forest that is as large and densely packed. As a result, lions can only survive in the forest under suitable conditions.

Most of India’s predatory animals in the Gir National Park are still alive. In addition, the Kamleshwar Lake inside the natural reserve has a sizable population of marsh crocodiles. Nowhere else in India has as many of these reptiles as Gir. The park is ideal for these creatures and flora to coexist quietly and undisturbed.

Gir forests’ geography comprises a series of rocky ridges, plateaus, valleys, and isolated hills. It is the last resting place for the fierce Asiatic Lions. Due to its ecosystem, other mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects can all be found in this area.

The most significant number of travelers are drawn to the omnipotent giant cats and their overwhelming presence. However, people frequently overlook that Gir is home to much more than lions.

A wide variety of birds that live with lions and other animals rarely get the attention they deserve. A renowned naturalist claims that Gir National Park would have become a famous bird sanctuary if lions had not lived there. In India, during the last century of the British Raj, the lion population fell to twenty.

But the Nawab of Junagadh’s great conservation efforts brought back the lions. These animals were saved from extinction by man’s commitment and skills. The population rose due to later efforts by the Indian government and the forest department. Currently, the Gir National Park is home to over 523 lions.

Faunal Diversity of Gir

Wildlife lovers can enjoy an excellent opportunity to see around 2,375 species of fauna in Gir, including about 38 mammals, 300 species of birds, 37 species of reptiles, and more than 2,000 species of insects. In addition, Gir is home to grand and rugged hills.

Asiatic lions, Indian leopards, Indian cobras, sloth bears, jungle cats, golden jackals, striped hyenas, Indian palm civets, Indian mongooses, and rats are among the carnivores found in Gir. Although they exist, desert cats and cats with rusty spots are rarely seen.

Asiatic Lions

India’s Panthera leo leo is known as the Asiatic lion. Since the turn of the 20th century, its range has been confined to Gir National Park and the surrounding areas in the Indian state of Gujarat. However, it once inhabited a sizable portion of southwest Asia and northern India. Compared to African lions, which only have one foramen on either side, roughly half of the Asiatic lion skulls from the Gir forest have divided infraorbital foramina.

Only 600 Asiatic lions remain in the wild and are found in Gujarat, an Indian state in western India. The Gir Forest National Park and Sanctuary is home to most inhabitants.

The Maldhari population in the Gir Forest coexists near humans in the lions’ remaining natural habitat. In addition, a portion of the lion population resides amidst residents in the nearby countryside and hills outside the protected zones.

Conservation History of Asiatic Lions 

Millions of tourists flock to India’s national parks every year in hopes of spotting the elusive tigers. But, did you know that roughly 200 years ago, the magnificent Asiatic Lion was discovered in the heart of the Indian subcontinent and further afield in West Asia, from Bengal to Mesopotamia?

Asiatic lions roamed broad areas of Asia, smaller than their African counterparts, well into the 19th century. However, decades of hunting and habitat destruction have resulted in the extinction of most Asian species. In 1918, the last known Asiatic lion in Iraq was killed, and the last time one was seen in Iran was in 1941.

Even though lions are revered in Indian mythology, most notably as the embodiment of Lord Vishnu Narasimha, the animal was brutally murdered for amusement. By the 19th century, most of North India had become lion-free because of widespread hunting by Indian maharajas and British officials.

Over the years, they were hunted to extinction. By the 1810s, in Sindh and Jharkhand. By the 1820s, in Eastern Gujarat. By the 1860s, by the 1870s, in Madhya Pradesh, and by the 1880s, in North Gujarat. By the turn of the century, South Kathiawad’s forests—parts of which were situated in the princely state of Junagadh—were home to the only lions known to exist on the subcontinent.

The sixth Nawab of Junagadh, Mahabat Khan, first attempted to protect lions in 1879. He issued regulations that essentially forbade all shikar (or hunting) and trapping of any animal in his territory without the state’s express consent after becoming alarmed at the declining numbers of lions. Lord Sandhurst, the governor of Bombay, encouraged him in this regard.

Nawab Rasulkhanji (1892–1911), who ascended to the throne in 1892, introduced a new set of regulations to impose more checks. He increased the responsibility to conserve more animals and birds and enforced steep fines. For instance, killing peacocks was prohibited. On the other hand, shooting lions requires a particular state permit and can only occur under unique conditions.

Sadly, even though the Junagadh State had taken official action to safeguard the lion, it could have been more effective. Senior British government officials kept up their hunting trips. A prime example of this was Sir Seymour Fitzgerald, the Governor of Bombay, who, in 1870, after opening Rajkumar College in Rajkot, traveled to the Gir and “bagged” five lions.

The lions were no longer protected from hunters after the Nawab left. As a result, in just five years, the number of lions fell from 285 in 1963 to approximately 166 in 1968, a nearly 50% decrease.

Indian Government Conservation Program

The Indian Forest Department began a wildlife conservation program for the Asiatic lion in September 1965 due to the declaration of a designated area as a sanctuary.

The efforts were successful, and once the Gir Development Scheme and wildlife management were implemented, the number of lions progressively climbed from 177 in 1968 to 359 in 2005. The Gir Forest Area and other commercial areas of coastal Saurashtra are home to an estimated 674 lions as of 2020.

The Asiatic lions flourish in Gir today thanks to the early efforts and affection of the Nawabs of Junagadh, who decided to protect rather than hunt these gorgeous animals.

Lion Population Census Estimates before the Gir was declared a Gir Lion Sanctuary in 1965.
Estimating YearPopulation of LionsCensus Description 
1884Very lessPerhaps few dozen
192050-100(Sir P. R. Gadell & J. M. Ratnagar)
1936287(First lion census – Nawab of Junagadh)
1950219-227Second Lion Census
1955290Third Lion Census

Protected areas in & around Gir for Asiatic lions

  •  Gir National Park
  •  Gir Sanctuary
  •  Paniya Sanctuary
  •  Mitiyala Sanctuary
  •  Girnar Sanctuary

Gir National Park is one of the most renowned national parks. It is famous for its majestic and endangered Asiatic Lions. This national park’s remarkable history will make you fall in love. After knowing the Asiatic Lion’s park history and conservation history, you can’t miss exploring this captivating Gir National Park. So, what are you looking for? Contact us to book tailor-made and affordable packages.

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