Friday, 22 June 2012

Asiatic Lion Sanctuary in India

Gir National ParkThe Gir National Park in Gujarat is home to the last remaining Asiatic Lions. The hilly tract of the national forest is mixed with dry deciduous and teak forest and scattered with grasslands. Gir National Park is situated in the Junagarh district in Gujarat, India. Gir was established in 1965 with a total area of 1412 sq. km. 
Gir National ParkThe Gir National Park is also home to a few leopards, chitals, Sambar, Grey langur, hyena, peacocks and paradise flycatchers. On an early morning drive you could spot the animals. Mugger crocodiles are also found in the Kamleshwar Dam reservoir. For animal lovers Gir National Park is a boon since in a very short span you could spot a lot of animals.
Asiatic LionLion CubGir is the sole home to Asiatic Lions also known as Panthera Leo Persica and is considered to be an important and protected areas in Asia since it is home to a variety of species of animals especially the Asiatic Lion. The government has taken a lot of efforts to protect the ecosystem of Gir to preserve its flora and fauna. Wildlife activists and NGO’s have also greatly contributed in preserving the animals that reside in Gir.
Gir National Park & Wildlife SanctuaryThe forest area and the Asiatic Lions of Gir were declared protected since 1900’s by the Nawab of the princely state of Junagarh. As of 2010 the census recorded that are about 411 lions left in Gir as compared to 52 in 2005 as a result of the breeding program introduced to save the species.
Getting to Gir
The Gir National Park has an entrance at Sassan. A drive from Ahmadabad would take around 8-9 hours on the National highway 8. There are also overnight trains available from Ahmadabad to Sassan.
The closest airport to Gir is Keshod which is 90 kms away. There are daily flights available from Mumbai to Keshod. You could also take a flight to Ahmadabad which is well connected to cities across Gujarat.
Gir is open from October, November to mid June depending on the weather conditions. The best time to visit is during from December to March since you could avoid the summer heat and could easily spot more animals. State bus transport is available from Junagarh and Veraval to Gir during November to June.
Climatic Conditions in Gir
Gir has extreme summers with an average temperature of 43 °C in the summers. The monsoons last till September and the irregular and uneven monsoons are common.
ClimateThe Park remains closed but the extreme seasons and is open from late November to March when the weather is cool and dry compared to the heat and the humidity of the summer and the rains. Thus making it easier to spot animals in the open.
The best way of going around Gir is hiring a jeep that makes its way across the natural surroundings and you could easily spot many animals with the help of the experienced drivers.

Water reserves

Gir National Park - Water Reserves The Gir region has seven perinneal rivers which are Shetrunji, Godavari, Raval, Hiran, Datardi and Machhundri. There are four reservoirs in the area as Hiran, Raval, Shingoda and Machhundri. The biggest reservoir in the area is at Kamleshwar Dam which forms the lifeline of Gir.
When the area is hit by draught, water scarcity becomes a major issue since there is no surface water available for the animals. The Forest Department has to make sure there is drinking water made available for the animals.

Flora in Gir

Flora - Gir National ParkGir is home to over 400 species of plant life. Gir forest is a very dry teak forest mixed with the deciduous variety of trees. Gir is the largest dry deciduous forest in western India. Teak is found only in the eastern part of the forest. The forest is known for its biological importance and recreational values. The forest provides tons of wood for fuel and grass.
There are a few Acacia and Banyan trees that could be found in Gir. Along the rivers and streams there is vegetation that adds to the forest’s flora. Some of the species of trees that are found here include Umro, Vad, Sirus, Kalam, Amli, Jambu and Charal etc. The luscious green forest and the broad leaves keeps the forest cool and retains the moisture content.
Asiatic Lions of Gir
The Asiatic lions were once found in Northern Africa, Greece and South West Asia. Today there are only about 400 of them left in total and they are all found in Gir. The forest of Gir is well protected but there have been numerous instances when the Lions have been poached and have been poisoned for attacking livestock.
Asiatic LionsThe Lions also face the threat of floods, drought, fire and other natural calamities. Gir still remains the only hope of preserving these endangered species. The Government and the forest department made a program called the Lion Breeding Programme when the count of the lions had suddenly fallen down to as low at 52 in 2005. This program helps in creating and maintaining breeding places for the lions and it also carries out behavior studies. The program also facilitates artificial insemination. One of the many centers is in Sakkarbaug Zoo in Junagarh which has been successful in breeding as many as 180 lions.
The Interpretation Zone, Devalia
Gir does not have a special zone designed for tourists but for the sake of education and promoting nature education there is a special Interpretation zone that has been created at Devalia within the sanctuary premises.
The chained fences of the Interpretation Zone have all habitat types. There are spotted deers, Nilgais, wild boars along with Sambars, blackbucks and other species.
There are only a limited number of tourists that allowed inside the sanctuary.
The Last bits of Information
It is recommended that you do not disturb the animals especially when they are sleeping. Do not try to irritate them and make them angry by teasing them. It’s suggested that you take an official guide who could help you in the tour.
You are requested not to smoke inside the park. Causing damage to the flora of the forest is strictly prohibited. Wear something loose and comfortable and always blend in with the park. Camping and having a picnic is not allowed. Don’t forget to carry water with you.
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