Gir National Park attracts droves of visitors to see the Asiatic lion in the wild, as it's the only place in the world where these creatures are now found. Once almost hunted to extinction, numbers have recovered well due to conservation efforts. The park's core zone, which extends for almost 260 square kilometers, was declared as a national park in 1975. However, the sanctuary was set up a decade earlier, and lion numbers have been increasing since then. The park's forested hilly terrain makes it a preferred habitat for the jackals, leopards, antelope, and deer that also live there. It's home to crocodiles, and over 300 species of resident birds as well.

The conservation history of Gir National Park takes us back to the early 1900s. At that time, the count of lions had dropped down to just 15 through slaughter for trophy hunting. When the British viceroys brought this matter to the attention of the Nawab of Junagadh, he ensured the protection of the park. Lord Curzon, especially, requested the Nawab to conserve the lions. Thus, the forest area of Gir and its lions were declared as protected by the Nawab. A ban was also imposed on the shooting of lions.

The Tribes of Gir
The unique side to Gir is that it houses the local tribals - Maldharis - cattle grazers who live upon cattles and milk, Sorathi Rabaris and Siddi's who look like Negros and speak Gujarati and are believed to have come to Gujarat in medieval times from African countries. Earlier there were 454 Maldhari villages called "Ness" inside the forest and now there are just 54 as the forest department has rehabilitated the same. This was one main reason of man-animal conflict and on the otherside, one reason for the increasing population. For a Lion, who is relatively a lazier cat than the leopard or tiger, it is easy to venture into a ness/village and kill a cow or a bull rather than running stressfully after a deer or a sambhar in the wild. The cattles have formed key diet of the Lion as high has 70% at one point of time and the forest department culls out as much as Rs 150 Crs pa to reimburse the villagers. But today, thanks to the conservation exercise of the forest department that now there is more greenery, and hence more deers etc - from around 4404 (1974) to 52492 (2010) in a decade which now has become the core diet of the Lion, thus reducing the cattle-diet to 30% from 70%. Maldharis and Lions ideally stay together and share the same place to live- the Gir forest. This has caused issues but there have been instances where a lion and a Maldhari is walking together.

Gir Jungle Lodge
Sasan Junagadh Road, Sasan Gir, Dist Junagadh, Gujarat (INDIA)
Phone: 02877285601, Mobile: 91-9662548700 / 9662542700
E mail:
girjungle@gmail.com , info@girjungle.com

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