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Gir National Park

The Gir National Park is located among the low, undulating and excellently irrigated hills in the Junagadh district of Gujarat. It is famous for being the last existing natural home of the Asiatic lion, although it has a healthy population of other animal species too. The Gir forest covers an area of 1150 square kilometers with 300 square kilometers forming the core area of the national park. The park receives a good annual rainfall averaging 1000mm. The temperatures at the park vary to extremes, as they do with most of the country too. In winters, the temperatures go down to as low as 6 degrees centigrade, while soaring up to a scorching 46 degrees in the summers. The park is open to visitors from November to May but the best time for visiting the park, taking comfort and wildlife viewing into consideration, is December to March. The park offers many excellent drives through scenic areas. For the more impatient and less adventurous, the park authorities organize "lion shows" in the Dewaliya area, which are a sure-shot way of seeing the magnificent big cats. These "spectacles" for the public are hopefully soon going to be axed, as is proposed by the more thoughtful of the governing bodies, and a safari park instead is to replace them with an area of around 1000 acres being set aside with a higher population density of lions to enhance sighting chances.

Although the conservation drive at Gir has brought the lion numbers up to a respectable 250 - 300 from a miniscule 20 that it had gone down to, the concerned authorities feel that these numbers are not enough. They feel that in case of the occurrence of an epidemic or some other natural calamity, the survival of the magnificent animal is in grave danger. The numbers of the lions at Gir have reached a kind of saturation point and the only way to now increase the numbers is to trans-locate some specimens as base populations to other areas in the country. Two earlier attempts within the state of Gujarat failed in the long run and there were plans on another attempt being formulated. Also in the offing is an attempt to trans-locate the lion to an area with suitable elements in Madhya Pradesh. This project seems to have run into difficulties with the Gujarat state government reluctant to release any of it's prised possessions to another state. In India too, the Lions were spread across Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. History bears witness to the fact that this majestic animal is so deeply etched in our minds that King Ashoka depicted them on his rock pillars around 300 BC. Today India’s National Emblem is based on the Lions featured on Ashoka pillars.

The Lion
The lion is the biggest species of the cat family. The Asiatic Lion, although not as large as it's African cousin, is also a large and strong enough to draw awe stricken gazes from it's viewers. The Asiatic Lion weighs 200-250kgs and grows to a height of 250-287cms at the shoulders. They are extremely cunning hunters and often hunt with properly worked out strategies involving the entire pride. The hunting is primarily done only by the females, although the bigger and stronger males do get involved where bigger prey are concerned. Lions have an extremely well developed sense of sight and hearing and use this very well to their advantage while hunting. This is especially true during the dark hours of the night. It is claimed that a lion can see six times brighter at night than a human with excellent sight. A lioness becomes ready for motherhood once every 2 and a half to 3 years. The gestation period of lions is around 4 months and a litter normally consists of 2-3 cubs, although much larger litters have also been reported. The average life expectancy of lions is approximately 20 years. The Asiatic Lion, now only found in Gir, has grown fonder of hunting the cattle belonging to local herdsmen than of the other swifter animals available in the forest. This is causing a bigger problem for the conservation authorities due to the resulting conflict between lions and mankind

Residents Of Gir - The Maldharis
Beside the animal residents there people also residing within the Gir sanctuary. More than 2,000 Maldhari tribals live within the sanctuary area, and their livestock make up a third of the lions’ diet. After severe droughts even attacks on people become common as lions enter villages to find food. Still the Maldharis consider this animal, as the lord of the beasts. The state government of Gujarat has persuaded hundreds of tribal families to leave the sanctuary, but people are reluctant to leave.

A recent wildlife sanctuary survey reveals that Gir has become a little overcrowded with the lion population and this is becoming a point of concern for farms and factories that surround the park. The Indian wildlife organization have plans to move some of Gir’s lions to the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary more than 500 miles away. But with the increasing population of India, finding other suitable homes for the endangered species like lion might be difficult.

The Gir National Park is well connected and accessibility is not a problem. It is well connected by road and rail transport to neighboring towns and there are regular connections to choose from. The park's railway / bus station is located close to the entrance at Sasan.

How to reach :
By Air : Nearest airport is Keshod 90-km via Veraval. One can catch daily flight from Mumbai to Keshod. Drive to Gir from Keshod or Rajkot (166-kms) airports.

By Rail : Meter gauge rail line of 395-kms from Ahemdabad. There is also a railway station at Sasan Gir (1km).

By Road : Distance of 400-kms from Ahmedabad via Rajkot, Junagadh and Mendarda. State Transport buses are also available from Junagadh and Veraval between November and June.