About Gir National Park & Sanctuary

Gir PA chronicles the annals of a magnificent conservation history of many de as described to the national and international community of naturalists, writers, hunters and conservationists. Due to the rich floral and faunal diversity, the habitat supports a typical semi-arid fauna and holds the only surviving population of endangered Asiatic Lions. The Asiatic Lion has been saved from the threshold of extinction to a relatively secured status due to excellent managerial efforts and support of local people.

Topography and Geomorphology

The terrain is mainly undulating with moderate hills, valleys and plateaus. The hills are of volcanic origin. The main geologic formation is a Deccan trap and main rock types are Dolomite and Basalt. Besides sandstone, limestone and metamorphic schist are also present. Volcanic rocks have given rise to the black cotton soil, and sandstone and limestone have given rise to reddish brown sandy loam soil. Soil texture varies from gravelly along the river banks, clay in deep valleys to stony and murrum of hills.

Climate

Gir has a tropical monsoon climate, with three distinct seasons – summer, monsoon and winter. Late November to early March is cool and dry, followed by a hot dry summer. Mid-June to September is the monsoon period. The bulk of the precipitation is during July and August.

Water resources

Gir forms the catchment of seven perennial rivers viz the Hiran, the Saraswati, the Datardi, the Shingoda, the Machhundri, the Ghodavadi and the Raval. In order to tap the water resources, four dams have been constructed along the Hiran, the Machhundri, the Raval and the Shingoda rivers.

Floristic composition

According to Champion and Seth’s classification of forest types (1964), the Gir forest falls under 5A/C1 – a very dry teak forest. Here Teak occurs mixed with dry deciduous species. More than 507 plant species have been recorded comprising 132 tree species, 48 shrub species, 232 herb species, 64 climber species and 26 grass species.

Fauna

The unique ecosystem of Gir harbours about 38 species of mammals, around 300 species of birds, 37 species of reptiles and more than 2000 species of insects. The main carnivores of Gir are the Asiatic Lion, the Leopard, the Jungle Cat, the Hyena, the Jackal, the Mongoose, the Civet, the Rusty Spotted Cat and the Ratel. The main herbivores of Gir are the Chital, the Nilgai, the Sambar, the Four-horned Antelope, the Chinkara and the Wild Boar. Among the smaller mammals, the Porcupine and the Black-naped Hare are common. The Pangolin is rare. The reptilian fauna is represented by the Marsh Crocodile, the Star Tortoise, the Monitor Lizard and a number of snake species. The area has a good population of Indian Rock Pythons. It is worth mentioning that the Gir forest has one of the highest populations of the Marsh Crocodiles in India.

Gir is rich in avifauna with more than 300 species, including migratory species. Six species of Vultures have been recorded, out of which the Indian Vulture and Red-headed Vulture are regularly sighted in PA. Some of the typical birds of Gir are the Crested Serpent Eagle, the Bonelli’s Eagle, the Changeable Hawk Eagle, the Brown Fish Owl, Mottled Wood Owl, Indian Pitta, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Jungle Bush Quail, the Pygmy Woodpecker, the Black-hooded Oriole, the Crested Tree Swift and the Monarch Flycatcher.

Conservation Values

In terms of conservation values, Gir

  • Is the largest compact tract of dry deciduous forest in the semi-arid western part of the country;
  • Is the home of the Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica) – the source population of the last surviving gene pool in the world;
  • Is a rich biodiversity area supporting a large number of species including several endangered species;
  • Is a rich biodiversity area supporting a large number of species including several endangered species;
  • Is the catchment area of seven rivers which sustain the economic prosperity of the drought-prone region;
  • Ensures the ecological security and environmental amelioration for the region; climate, water, salinity prevention and pollution absorption;
  • Is an important biological research area with considerable scientific, educational, aesthetic and recreational values; and
  • Is the cradle of cultural and religious evolution in Saurashtra.
The Asiatic Lion
History

Gir is known all over the world as the last home of the Asiatic Lion. This sub-species was once widely distributed in Asia, from Asia Minor and Arabia through Persia to India. In the Indian sub-continent, its range extended across northern India, as far as east to Bihar, with the Narmada river marking the southern limit. Before the close of the last century, the Asiatic lion had become extinct from its range except for Gir. The probable years of its extermination region-wise were Bihar 1840, Delhi 1834, Bhagalpur 1842, Eastern Vindhyas and Bundelkhand 1865, Central India and Rajasthan 1870 and Western Aravallis 1880. The last animal surviving in the wild outside Saurashtra was reported in 1884. By the end of the 19th century, the then Nawab of Junagadh gave the number of lions in Gir as dozen. The Nawab provided adequate protection to the lions, and their population increased between the years 1904 and 1911. From 1911 onwards, hunting was rigidly controlled. The wildlife conservation programme for the Asiatic lion was started by the forest department in September 1965 with the declaration of the sanctuary. With the implementation of wildlife management plan and the Gir Development Scheme, the population of lions increased gradually from 177 in 1968 to 523 in 2015. Similarly, the population of major herbivores (Chital, Sambar, Nilgai, Wild Boar, Four-horned Antelope, Langur and Chinkara) has also increased from about 38221 in 1995 to 108211 in 2015.

At present Asiatic Lion roam in more than 22000 sq. km of Saurashtra region of Gujarat.

Working of Forest Department

The mandate of Forest Department encompasses the following activities:

Protection against
  • Illegal removal of forest produce
  • Poaching
  • Land encroachment
  • Fire
Wildlife Management
  • Habitat improvement works
  • Soil moisture conservation works
  • Ensuring a regular supply of water to wildlife
  • Dealing with problematic animals
  • Rescue, treatment and release/rehabilitation of wild animals
  • Health care and treatment of sick and injured animals
  • Research and monitoring
Eco-development Works
  • Alternative energy sources such as biogas, LPG, etc.
  • Fodder plot development
  • Construction of check dams
  • Individual beneficiary schemes
  • Economic upliftment of peripheral villages
Eco-Tourism
  • Management of Gir Interpretation Zone, Devalia
  • Catering, lodging and boarding facilities at forest guest house
  • Management of tourists in the tourism zone
  • Orientation programme and tourist guide facilities
Extension Works
  • Nature education camps
  • Awareness programmes – film shows, exhibition, etc.
  • Involvement of schools of Lion landscape regions in activities pertaining to Nature awareness
Direct benefits from the Gir PA
  • Nearly 5000 MT of grass are harvested every year for scarcity relief.
  • More than 10000 livestock of the Maldharis and 4200 of the forest settler are entirely dependent on the forest.
  • Nearly 1 lakh livestock of peripheral villagers are partially dependent on the forest.
  • From non-reserve vidis, grass is provided to panchayats and panjarapols.
  • In sum grass worth approximately Rs. 50 crore is provided annually to different target groups.
  • Nearly 15000 MT fuelwood is collected by the villagers, Maldharis and in-forest settlers from Gir forest annually.
  • Approximately 1 lakh man-days are generated annually through different works being carried out in the Gir ecological unit.
  • This is a major wildlife tourism centre. More than 500000 tourists visit Gir annually.
  • Through the four reservoirs of Gir, approximately 106 MHM of water is provided annually for irrigation and drinking.
  • Besides departmental infrastructure facilities for tourism, approximately 400 families earn their livelihoods directly from the tourism industry.
  • Dams outside the Gir, built on rivers originating within the forest – like Shetrunji – provide drinking water to places as far as Palitana and Bhavnagar.
Conservation Measures

Gir Development Scheme (GDS) was launched in 1971, during the course of which most of the measures proposed were implemented:

  • Strengthening of protection measures by establishing check-posts and wireless network.
  • Construction of rubble wall fencing to check ingress of outside cattle and encroachment in the sanctuary.
  • Resettlement of maldhari families and shifting out their livestock.
  • Identifying the core area and declaring it as National Park in 1975.
  • Suspending timber felling activities.
  • Payment of compensation in cases of killing of livestock/humans by carnivores.
  • Strengthening check-posts to control the movement of people and livestock within the sanctuary.
  • Regulating traffic on public highways passing through the sanctuary.
  • Organizational restructuring to meet administrative and managerial needs.
  • Further strengthening the protection measures by introducing wireless communication network, patrolling, vehicles and weapons.
  • Nature Education and mass movements through Forest Youth Clubs and other voluntary organizations.
  • Launching of the individual beneficiary scheme.
  • Assisting wild animals in scarcity years.
  • Employment generation programmes, particularly during scarcity years.
Impact of efficient management
  • Increase in Lion population, from 177 in 1968 to 523 in 2015.
  • Increase in other wild animal population including wild ungulates.
  • Habitat improvement, increase in vegetation cover and grass and browse availability.
  • Natural dispersal of the lion from the Gir region to the neighbouring areas in Girnar Sanctuary, Mitiyala Sanctuary, coastal scrub forests (from Mangrol to Mahuva), Liliya-Krankach in Amreli, Jessar and Palitana in Bhavnagar and settling there permanently.
Accommodation

The Sinh Sadan, Forest Department’s guest house and a famous hunting lodge in the past, was constructed in 1911. The guest house is equipped with all the facilities to cater the needs of tourists. The dining hall inside the campus provides the local food for the tourists. A spacious Dormitory has been made to provide budget accommodations.