Lion Safari at Gir & Conservation
Also known as Asiatic Lion this big cat is now found only in India. A small population of 400 live in Gir National Park in the Indian state of Gujarat. The animal has been exterminated from all over Asia and Northern Africa where it was once found in abundance.
Indian Lion differs in morphology from its African cousin and is a bit smaller in size. There is observable difference between the manes of males. The conservation of lions in India takes place at Gir National Park. After many years of efforts the numbers have steadily increased in this sanctuary. But this has given rise to a problem, the lions are spreading around closer to human settlements in areas near by.
Unlike the tigers and leopards, lions are gregarious animals. They live in a herd which is called a pride. Usually one dominant male commands the whole pride which consists of young males, cubs and lionesses.
These carnivores hunt in a group which comprises of females and cubs. The male rarely takes part in the hunts. Its major role is to protect the pride and breed. The animals fiercely protect their territories with the male playing a dominant role.
The lions prey on big game. At Gir Sanctuary they hunt Nilgai, sambar, spotted deer, chinkara, four horned deer, wild boar and langur. Black buck from open areas also frequent the park and are consumed by the carnivores.
Birds of Gir
Gir National Park
Gir National Park is situated in Gujarat near the district of Junagadh. The park is the only home of the endangered Asiatic Lions. It is home to many other mammals. The topography of Gir is hilly and undulating with plains and river beds. The mountains are part of Girnar Range.
The park has an area of 1412 sq.km that comprises of the National Park and the WLS. The rivers that are the life line of GIR are Shingoda, Datardi, Hiran, Shetrunji, Godavari, Machhundri and Raval. There are four smaller dams besides a big one called Kamleshwar. These are also used by the animals to survive. River systems and dams play a significant role in conservation of all life forms here.
The forests are of dry deciduous type with dominance of teak and its associates. The ecosystem comprises of dry forests, scrub, savanna and open areas. These habitats hold many species of mammals besides the lion. Panther, sloth bear, sambar, Nilgai, Indian gazelle, spotted deer, desert cat, jungle cat; rusty spotted cat, golden jackal, fox, hyena, wolf and many more.
Birding at Gir is exciting, since it is a bird heaven in Gujarat. Some of the species found in this reserve are:
- Crested Serpent Eagle
- Bonelli's Eagle
- Tawny Eagle
- Honey Buzzard
- Asian Paradise Flycatcher
- Golden Oriole
- Black Headed Oriole
- Indian Pitta
- Common Iora
- Black Naped Monarch
- White Backed
- King Vulture
- Long Billed Vulture
- Greater Coucal
- Grey Francolin
- Painted Storks
Lion Safari Video India
There is a fixed gate entry fee for Indians. While for the Foreign Nationals it is higher. There is also a guide fee applicable which is based on time spent in the park. Money is also charged for professional photography depending upon the equipment used.
During major festivals like Navratri, Diwali and Holi the entry fee is hiked by fifty percent.
Further information can be had from office of the field director or from Forest and Environment Department based at Gandhinagar near Ahmedabad.
Images Indian Lion
Asiatic Lion Safari
The forest department at Gir National Park organises Asiatic Lion safaris in the tourism area. The safari starts from Sasan Gir which is inside the National Park. This reserve is at Tala Taluka of Junagarh District of Gujarat. Junagarh Township is at a distance of sixty kilometres from here.
The safari offers a fair chance of sighting a pride in the wild. Though the forest density is less, there is plenty of place for big cats to hide. Expert tracking leads to a pride on lion safari at Gir National Park.
Top rated tour operators in India offer affordable bird watching packages for Gujarat. These package tours include Sasan Gir Safari for lions, Rann of Kutch and Velavadar for birding and safaris. There are many hotels and resorts situated near Sasan. Jeeps and other small vehicles are available for safaris on hire.
A two nights stay is required to see the prides. For birding, more than three days will certainly result in sighting many exciting avian species.
Accommodations at Gir
Government rest houses may be available for a stay but then advance reservation is a must before arrival. There is a comfortable lodge operated by Gujarat Tourism Department with economical pricing. This is known as Lion Safari Lodge. For this lodge contact Gujarat Tourism, Rang Mahal, at Diwan Chowk, Junagadh in Gujarat.
The forest department runs a Sinh Sadan Guest House and offers accommodation at reasonable price. Contact: CF, at Sasan Gir, Junagadh Gujarat.
Besides the Gir Lodge run by the Taj Group, many private lodges are situated here. These are well equipped and organize safaris in the park.
- Gir Forest National Park - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Gir National Park
- Forests & Environment Department
Gujarat Forest Department
Conservation & Translocation
Lion conservation has been successful at Gir and the preserve has reached optimum number of big cats it can support. The increasing number has resulted in man animal conflicts at periphery. The periphery and certain inside areas of the preserve are occupied by pastorals called Maldharis. It is obvious that the sanctuary can no longer harbour more number of lions.
Another problem that besets this isolated population in India is inbreeding and susceptibility to an epidemic. In order to spread and thus conserve this vital member of our ecosystem a need to maintain separate population is being felt. As per the Government's plan a pride of lions is to be trans located to Kuno Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
The plan could not succeed due to the unwillingness of the Gujarat Government to transfer these animals to Kuno so far.
Man Animal Conflict at Gir - Maldharis
Maldharis are nomadic herdsmen who have migrated from MP and Rajasthan in India. They have settled in Banni Grasslands of Gujarat since seven hundred years. They constitute a different caste. Rabari Bhanvan and Charan castes live near the Gir National Park with their livestock. Their residence is called "ness" where cattle, goats and sheep are also kept to produce dairy products.
There are frequent cases of conflicts with the abundant wildlife all around. The livestock creates grazing pressure by competing with the wild denizens.
In recent times the lions have spread in larger area because their population has increased in South Gujarat. This is leading to incursion of the predator into villages and small towns increasing the man animal conflict. The are now present in almost 22000 sq.km area.
How to Reach
The state of Gujarat is well connected by Air, Rail and Roads with New Delhi and rest of the Indian States.
The Gir Sanctuary is situated in Junagadh and Amreli Districts of Gujarat.
- Rajkot: 120 KM
- Junagadh: 60 KM
- Veralval: 43 KM
- Ahmedabad: 400 KM
Nearest Airport is Keshod about 90 KM.
Ahmedabad is connected by Rail to Junagadh which is about 60 KM.
Map of Gir
A study conducted by WII found Kuno Palpur to be the most suitable forest for trans-location of Gir Lions. The wildlife sanctuary has an area of 344 plus sq km with a 900 km of buffer. The park is home to wolf, niglai, deer, langur and wild boar besides other animals.
This was a former geographical range of the lions and perhaps a meeting place with tigers. There may be few tigers here which may be inhabiting the dense pockets of the wildlife sanctuary. But this is no problem for reintroduction of lions to Kuna since the prime habitat of both the big cats differs and they have been known to co exists on many instances as they did in Central India.
The impasse is more parochial and political in nature with meaningless sentiments endangering the Gir Population itself.
Map of Kuno Palpur
Lion Trans Location
After a recent court order a pride of lions will bet sent to Kuno Palpur for creating a second home for the endangered species in India.
© 2012 Uday Patel