Sasan Gir National Park
Best time to visit :
December to March, Park remains closed from June to October
Distance from Junagadh : 55km
Distance from Veraval : 40km
STD Code : 02877
Annual Rainfall : 1000mm
¤ Great Habitat of Asiatic
the vast arid landscape that dominates the state of Gujarat, towards
the tip of the Saurashtra Peninsula, lies a wildlife oasis that has a
pool of biodiversity the rest of the world has lost a long time ago.
This 1,412sq km reserve, with a core zone of 260sq km, is home to the
last 300 Asiatic Lions (Panthera
leo persica) left on the planet. Once this majestic animal was
found all over Asia Minor, Arabia, Persia and India. But the royal
families insatiable desire to kill and to decorate
the walls of their palaces with stuffed trophies led to a
near wipeout of the species from the jungles that cover this stretch.
¤ Shikar Obsession of Royal Court
The obsession for shikar,or hunt intensified with the advent of the
British. One can see hundreds of photographs with big game like lions
or tigers lying dead in the foreground, and a team of shikaris, or
hunters standing proudly behind it brandishing as many as 30 guns. The
kind of havoc these shikar parties have wreaked in the jungles is just
unbelievable. A British officer of the India cavalry, who was posted
in the princely state of Kathiawar for three years, shot more than 80
lions. Another British officer killed 14 lions during his ten-day
visit to the Gir forest. and the number of ungulates and birds that
must have fallen to the guns of the British, is anyones guess.
¤ Hunting- A Royal Treat
In fact, once upon a time, hunting in Gir was a privilege.
Dignitaries such as viceroys and princes of the Indian states were
formally invited to enjoy a shikar of the lion by the
Nawab of Junagadh. and sure enough, people craved to be royal guests
at Junagadh as this election was considered a matter of
great pride and honour.
Things however changed for the better by the end of 18th
century when worried over the rapidly-dwindling population of lions,
Lord Curzon declined the invitation to hunt and requested the Nawab to
take steps to conserve the species. It is believed that just 20 lions
were left in the jungles of Gir at the time. Immediately after this,
the Nawab imposed a ban on the shooting of lions. But he retained the
rights to allow royal guests to shoot a few animals every year.
However, the people of Junagadh, and ironically so at the behest of
the Nawab, left no stone unturned to conserve the species.
¤ Government Completely Banned Hunting
By 1911, the wildlife population in the jungles of Gir had risen
commendably. In the 1950s, hunting lions was totally banned.
Since then, the area has seen a constant rise in the lion population.
Today the total count of lions at Gir National Park stands at about
¤ The Best Time To Visit
The best time for sighting lions are the wee hours of the morning and
late evenings when lions are most active. They can also be seen lazing
under the shadow of trees during peak summers.
¤ The Charm of Sighting The Great Asiatic Lions
The Asiatic Lion is a smaller species than its cousin in Africa.
Standing at 90 centimetres at the shoulder, the Asiatic Lion can weigh
anything between 200-250 kg. It is 8-9 ft in length, the tail itself
measuring about 60-90 cm. It has a much longer mane and tail tuft than
the African Lion. The elbows are also larger and the coat thinner. But
what sets it apart it from its cousin in Africa is the distinctive
fold on its belly.
Unlike most members of the felidae family,
adult lions live in pairs. Normally, the association is long
lasting. It is not unusual to come across a family of a lion, lioness
and three to four cubs under a shady tree or near a water hole in the
Gir. The family relaxes by the day and hunts when the sun touches the
horizon. Hunting is a family affair. The pride drives and isolates its
quarry from the herd before bringing it down. Eating is again
get-together time, with the family members assembled all around the
kill, munching their favourite parts.
The Asiatic Lions prey includes the nilgai, chital, sambar and
almost all ungulates it could lay its paws upon, including goats,
buffaloes and camels that belong to the Maldharis and Rabaris tribes
living on the peripheries of the Park.
¤ Other Attractions of Gir National Park
Apart from lions, Gir has a considerable population of leopards.
According to a census conducted in1995, the Park has a total of 294
leopards, making Gir the best place in India to watch the big cats.
But this also makes the Park a bit cramped for enough space to
accommodate all the big cats.
The logical fallout has been more and more attacks on the villagers
(and their livestock) living on the peripheries of the sanctuary.
Unfortunately, the Park doesnt support an adequate number of
prey species. The 1995 census indicates that the area has total of 772
sambars, 10,446 chitals, 2,081 nilgais, 311 chinkaras, 2,212 wild
boars and 6,912 langurs for a population of more than 600 big cats.
Consequently, almost everyday there are incidences of cattle-lifting.
In fact, the lions have become so daring that sometimes they lift
cattle from the homes of the villagers.
¤ Fascinating Aerial Population
The Park is also rich in birdlife. The most commonly found birds are
the Paradise flycatcher, fish owl, black vulture, shaheen falcon,
crested serpent eagle, Bonellis eagle, crested swift, pied
wood-pecker, gray drongo, cuckoo shrike, painted sandgrouse, gray
partridge and the white-neck stork.
¤ Reptile Population
More than 25 species of reptiles have been identified in the Park.
Marsh crocodiles can be seen in the rivers that run across its length.
There is a Crocodile Rearing Centre in Sasan, where one can see
crocodiles measuring a few centimetres to a metre.
The best way to observe the wildlife in Gir is by driving through the
most popular and promising trails during early mornings and late
evenings. A good reliable car (although nothing can match a jeep) can
take you from Sasan to Bhawal Chowk, Kankai, Chodavdi Tulsishyam and
¤ Getting There
Nearest Airport : Keshod
(86km) daily flights to/from Mumbai via Porbandar, by Gujarat Airways
Railway Station : A few hundred metres from the Forest Lodge
Buses : Available from Junagadh (54km)
Orientation Centre :
The Sinh Sadan Complex offers information and guidance about the
lions and the area. Every evening, a film show is organised for the
visitor by the forest department at the centre. The souvenir shop
sells postcards, books, hand-painted T-shirts, etc.
Sinh Sadan Forest Lodge : This is a government run
comfortable accomodation. A/C and non-A/C rooms with attached baths
are available. The lodge also has a 30-bed dormitory along with tented
accommodation. Visitors should make their reservations well in advance
at the office of the Dy. CFS Superintendent, Wildlife Division, Sasan