Gir National Park
About The Location: Gir National Park, a place located in Junagadh district of Gujarat at a distance of 347 km from Ahmedabad. It is a unique park and one of its kind. The forest covers total of 1412 km of area. The park was used as a hunting ground of lions by the Britishers during their reign and by the Nawabs of Junagadh until 1960 when the Government of India had to put a ban on hunting due to huge decrease in the number of Asiatic Lions. However, the park is not only known for its Asiatic lions, but also for its plentiful avifauna population which has more than 310 species of birds. Most of which are resident birds and others migrating from many parts of the world. You can find birds from Malabar whistling thrush to painted storks. Famous ornithologist Lt. Dr. Salim Ali once said that if there were no lions here. Gir would be well-known as one of the best bird sanctuaries in western India.
Gir is home to birds like crested serpent eagle, endangered Bonelli’s eagle, crested hawk-eagle, brown fish owl, Indian eagle-owl, rock bush-quail, Indian peafowl, brown-capped pygmy woodpecker, black-headed oriole, crested treeswift, Indian pitta and many more.
Look out for: Malabar Whistling Thrush and Bonelli’s Eagle
Be one of few to record: Painted Storks and Brown Fish Owl
Seasons: November to JanuaryBest time to visit: December to April is the best time to visit the national park.
In the 19th century, the rulers of Indian princely states used to invite the British colonists for hunting expeditions. At the end of the 19th century, only about a dozen Asiatic lions were left in India, all of them in the Gir Forest, which was part of the Nawab of Junagarh’s private hunting grounds. British viceroys brought the drastic decline of the lion population in Gir to the attention of the Muslim Nawab of Junagadh, who established the sanctuary. Today, it is the only area in Asia where Asiatic lions occur and is considered one of the most important protected areas in Asia because of its biodiversity. The Gir ecosystem with its diverse flora and fauna is protected as a result of the efforts of the government forest department, wildlife activists and NGOs. It is now considered the jewel of Gujarat’s ecological resources.
The count of 2,375 distinct fauna species of Gir includes about 38 species of mammals, around 300 species of birds, 37 species of reptiles and more than 2,000 species of insects.
The carnivores group mainly comprises the Asiatic lion, Indian leopard, jungle cat, striped hyena, golden jackal, Bengal fox, Indian gray mongoose and ruddy mongoose, and honey badger. Asiatic wildcat and rusty-spotted cat occur, but are rarely seen.
The main herbivores of Gir are chital, nilgai, sambar, four-horned antelope, chinkara and wild boar. Blackbucks from the surrounding area are sometimes seen in the sanctuary. Among the smaller mammals, porcupine and hare are common, but the pangolin is rare.
The reptiles are represented by the mugger crocodile, Indian cobra, tortoise and monitor lizard which inhabit the sanctuary’s bodies of water. Snakes are found in the bush and forest. Pythons are sighted at times along the stream banks. Gir has been used by the Gujarat State Forest Department which formed the Indian Crocodile Conservation Project in 1977 and released close to 1000 marsh crocodiles into Lake Kamaleshwar and other small bodies of water in and around Gir.
The plentiful avifauna population has more than 300 species of birds, most of which are resident. The scavenger group of birds has 6 recorded species of vultures. Some of the typical species of Gir include crested serpent eagle, endangered Bonelli’s eagle, changeable hawk-eagle, brown fish owl, Indian eagle-owl, rock bush-quail, Indian peafowl, brown-capped pygmy woodpecker, black-headed oriole, crested treeswift and Indian pitta. The Indian grey hornbill was not found from the last census of 2001.
How to get there
By Road: Private and state bus services are available from different junctions in the state.
By Rail: The town has a railway station that is connected to major cities in Gujarat.
By Air: The closest airports to Junagadh are Keshod (40 km) Porbandar (104 km) and Rajkot (105.3 km).