Mostly famous for being the only abode of Asiatic Lions, Gir National Park has a lot more to offer. Gir National Park has 38 species of mammals, 37 species of reptiles, around 300 species of birds, and more than 2,000 species of insects. Noted ornithologist Dr. Salim Ali reckoned that this area would have been a popular bird sanctuary in the country, had it not been for the lions.
However, the presence of lions has made this sanctuary one of the most protected areas in the country. It acquired the protected status as early as the 1900s, when the Nawab of Junagadh prohibited the killing of lions as their numbers had dropped to a meager 15. Following heroic attempts by the Nawab and the post-Independence ban on lion killing, the numbers have risen to 452.
Gir National Park is also an excellent place for seeing marsh or mugger crocodile in its rivers and in the lake of the Kamaleshwar dam. A crocodile-rearing center is present at Sasan.
While jungles bring images of magnificent greenery and a swirl of colors, Gir strives to be different. Its topography consists of brooding hills, rugged ridges, densely forested valleys and plateaus.
A community called the “Maldharis” lives in the Gir too. This religious pastoral community has cohabited the jungle through the ages, forming a symbiotic relationship with the dreaded lion. While the Maldhari community sustains itself by grazing their cattle and harvesting what they require from the forest, the cat and other predators help itself to their livestock. This practice is readily accepted by the community, who sees it as a fair price for trespassing on another’s land.
Deciduous forests and dry scrub land – the Asiatic Lion’s habitat – comprise 10% of the total area of the park. However, the lions can be spotted near the seven rivers that flow in Gir. The vegetation that grows along the course of these rivers provides for the lion’s prey.Teak is the dominant one here consisting nearly half the forest, with other trees such as khair, simal, dhavdo, timru, khakhro, amla, samai and kalam, asundro, amli, jambu, umro and vad. Plenty of “poor quality teak” is found in the northern part of the park, with hard teak trees growing up to 10 m.
The other areas of the park consist of savannah-type grassland lingering between the forests. In regions that receive a good amount of rainfall, the forest is a closed canopy with taller trees. It is particularly true for the central and southwestern parts of Gir.
Asiatic lion, leopard, sloth bear, jungle cat, desert cat, rusty-spotted cats, jackal, striped hyena, common and ruddy mongoose, chowsingha, sambar, chital, nilgai, chinkara, wild boar, Indian palm civet, Indian mongoose, porcupine, hare, many snake species including Indian Cobras, python, common ratsnake, keelbacks, Common Indian Krait, Russell’s viper and saw-scaled viper. Other reptiles include fan throated lizard, star tortoise, calotes lizard, monitor lizard, Indian chameleon and common skink.
Birds like great horned owl, Shaheen falcon, tawny eagle, black winged kite and Bonelli’s Eagle are a plenty. Malabar whistling thrush, orange-headed ground thrush, black naped flycatcher, Indian pitta, crested serpent eagle, king vulture, crested hawk eagle, painted storks, paradise flycatcher, pelicans, peafowl, grey and jungle bush quail, black ibis, grey partridge, black-headed cuckoo shrike, nightjar, grey drongo, pied woodpecker, and white-necked stork are also found at Gir National Park.
Gir National Park is well connected to other important places in the State by the State Transport Buses as well as other private luxury coaches.
The nearest railway stations are Junagadh (60 kms ) and Veraval (40 km ). The railway station there receives trains from Ahmedabad and Rajkot, and major cities interstate
Gir National Park can be reached through flights. Some of the nearby airports are Rajkot (165 kms via Junagadh) , Keshod (90 kms via Veraval) and Diu (110 kms). Ahemdabad airport lies 360 kms away from Gir. All these cities are well connected to major cities in India.