|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 km for the fully protected area for 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. |
Gir National Park & Wildlife Sanctuary has deciduous forest interspersed with semi-evergreen and evergreen flora, acacia, scrub jungle, grasslands and rocky hills. Fed by perennial and seasonal rivers and streams, the sanctuary has large water bodies like the Kamleshwar Dam, Shingoda Dam, Machhundri Dam and Raval Dam that are good for crocodiles, birds and wildlife.
It is the sole home of the pure Asiatic Lions 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 1900s by 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.
Within the sanctuary, there are numerous human settlements of cattle herders called Maldharis with an estimated 20,000 head of livestock (which, incidentally, forms a significant part of the Lion’s diet). There are also places of Hindu worship and pilgrimage and sulphur springs at Tulsi Shyam and Kankai Mata. The edges of the Gir National Park have good population of Indian Gazelle, protected by religious sentiments of the local people. The overwhelming presence of the omnipotent big cat diverts the attention of the common man from the remarkable bird population that the sanctuary has. However, the birds of Gir sanctuary did attract the great ornithologist, Dr. Salim Ali who believed that, had the Asiatic lions not been there, the area would have been one of the most fascinating bird sanctuaries of the country.