Sasan Gir Wildlife Sanctuary is counted among the finest wildlife sanctuaries of India. The only known home of the world-famous Asiatic Lions in Asia, Sasan Gir Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in Indian state of Gujarat. Spread over an area of approximately 1,412 sq km, Sasangir Wildlife Sanctuary has been home to Asiatic Lions since 1884. Due to a severe drought and excessive hunting in the beginning of the 20th century, this majestic creature reached on the verge of extinction. Thanks to the efforts made by the then Nawab of Junagadh, who banned all hunting in the area, they survived and their number started to grow slowly. After independence of the country, the government of India also paid special attention towards their conservation and on 18th September 1965 the area was declared a protected Forest Reserve.
Sasangir Wildlife Sanctuary attained the status of a National Park in 1975. In addition to Sasan Gir Forest Reserve, Sasangir National Park is made up of three adjoining reserves - the Nalsarovar Lake and Sanctuary inhabiting a wide variety of water birds; the Little Rann of Kutch, famous for the Indian Wild Ass; and the captivating Flamingo Island, making Sasan Gir a perfect wildlife destination. Popularly known as Gir National Park, the sanctuary attracts thousands of wildlife enthusiasts from all over the world. According to recent surveys, the number of Asiatic Lions in Sasangir National Park stands around 327 (May 2002).
The Gir National Park, was established on 18th September, 1965, as a Forest Reserve, primarily to conserve the Asiatic lion. The total area under national park status is about 2,450 hectares. It is located in the Junagadh District of Gujarat, about 65 km south-east of Junagadh city, and 90 km east of Keshod Airport, in the Kathiawar (Saurashtra) Peninsula. Sasan, with a forest rest-house, is the headquarters of the sanctuary.The Gir is a mixed deciduous type of forest with teak, ber, flame of the forest, jamun, a variety of acacia, particularly babul. It is a hilly tract with plenty of rivers, and offers the visitor long pleasant drives, through the thick forest cover.
Gir National Park is the only remaining habitat of the Asiatic lion, which has been confined to this forest, since 1884 ( about 239 lions were reported in 1985 ).The Asiatic lion is slightly smaller than its African cousin, nevertheless, a large male lion of the Gir is quite a sight to behold. The best way to observe the big cats is, of course, in their natural surroundings, at dawn and dusk, when they are on the prowl. The Forest Department does arrange lion shows every Sunday, where the spectators can watch prides of lions on the hunt.There are guided trips available, to watch these magnificent animals from a very close range.
Tourist Attractions in Gir National Park
The Gir National Park is steeped in history and folklore. It boasts of temples of great antiquity, like Kankai Mata and Tulsishyam, a place of pilgrimage with hot springs. The forest is famous for its cattle herders, the Madharis, whose buffaloes form a substantial part of the lions' meals. Extremely hospitable, the Madharis are herders, whose lifestyle has changed little over the years, and their folklore and traditions are a unique record of coexistence of humans with lions.
Wildlife viewing in the Girs is best done, by driving around the forest. The best drives from Sasan are, to Baval Chowk and Kankai, to Chodavdi and Tulsishyam, and to Kamaleshwar dam. Though a sturdy car would do, a jeep is definitely more appropriate.
Three unusual reserves, the Nalsarovar Lake and Sanctuary - home to several water-birds, the Little Rann of Kutch - home of the Indian wild ass, and the fascinating Flamingo Island, render the state of Gujarat a virtual haven for wildlife buffs.
The state of Gujarat has some splendid wildlife reserves that are quite out of the ordinary. The Gir National Park is the only home in India of the Asiatic Lion of which there are nearly 300 in the park. This sanctuary lies in the Gujarat peninsula in South West India and is gifted with a terrain that is rugged with low hills and the vegetation is full of mixed deciduous, with stands of Teak, Acacia, Jamun, Tendu and Dhak trees, interspersed with large patches of grasslands. On the hills of the trees are sparse and stunted.
Flora in Gir National Park:
Acacia and Banyan trees. A distinct belt of vegetation is found along the main rivers and streams. Species like the Jambu, Karanj, Umro, Vad, Kalam, Charal, Sirus and Amli are found here. These trees are mostly broad leaved and evergreen, giving the area a cool shade and the moisture content.
Climate(Gir Wildlife Sanctuary)
From the three common seasons of summer, winter and monsoon, summer takes the longest stretch, in which the average minimum and maximum temperature ranges between 10ºC to nearly 45ºC. The hottest months recorded in Gir are April and May. The rains bring some relief from the heat during the monsoons period of, starting from middle of June and September. The maximum recorded during this period in the area is around 1,866 mm and the minimum recorded being 199mm.
Because of less rainfall water always remains a critical factor in the well being of the forest. At times the waterholes are required to be replenished through water tankers from outside and the park staff maintains around 350 of such waterholes.
The Lion King (Gir National Park )
Gir Sanctuary is the last and only home of the critically endangered Asiatic Lion. These lions are a smaller more compact version of their African version, and are best viewed at dawn or dusk when they are on the move. The major difference between the two is that the African Lion appears larger than the Indian Lion because of its large and luxuriant mane.
Extension Of The Sanctuary
In the past Gir had a much bigger coverage area. After Indian government placed a total ban on killing of Lions in 1955, within the time span of three years the area estimation came around 2,560-sq-km and the Lion population was estimated at 287. Since then, the forest area very quickly got reduced in area to 1,452-sq-km. In 1965, the Gujarat government declared Gir forest as a sanctuary and in 1975; part of the sanctuary was declared as a National Park. And with the success of the protection program there is an incredible increase in the Lion population too, from 177 in 1974 to around 300 in 1995.
The main territories of this territorial predator outside Gir in Gujarat include Nagwa Beach in Diu, Sutrapada, Palitana, Mahuva, Savarkundla, Mitiyala, Keshod, Maliya Hatina, and Girnar.