Sasan Gir, often known simply as Gir, covers an area of 1,492 square kilometres in the Gujarat Peninsula of Northwest India, close to the towns of Junagadh and Amreli.
The park was established to preserve the sole habitat of the Asiatic lion, a smaller, more compact subspecies of its African cousin, with a distinctive stomach fold. As well as roughly several hundred lions, felines are well represented by jungle cats, desert cats and rusty spotted cats, plus a healthy population of leopard.
Gir is home to myriad mammal species, highlights include sloth bear, striped hyena, golden jackal, chousingha (the world’s only four-horned antelope), wild boar, Indian flying fox and the Indian pangolin. For reptile enthusiasts, the dam area contains crocodiles, and there are numerous non-venomous snakes such as the Indian rock python – along with four venomous varieties: Indian cobra, common krait, saw-scaled viper, and Russell’s viper.
Gir has an estimated 300 bird species: 250 on the park checklist and 50 other species, including the endangered lesser florican and the saras crane, in the grassland around the periphery. The most notable are species such as painted sandgrouse, grey francolin, various quails, Asian paradise flycatcher, black-naped monarch, and white-browed fantail. Raptors seen include vultures, long-billed, Indian white-backed, and red-headed, or king; changeable hawk-eagle; eagles including crested serpent, bonneli’s,, and Pallas’s fish eagle; and osprey, laggar falcon, and white-eyed buzzard. Nightjars are commonly seen in the evenings, and wetlands like Kamleshwar Dam are good for waterfowl, with Indian skimmer, spot-billed and Dalmatian pelicans.
Gir was not always a national park, so its animals and birds co-exist with the remaining settlements of cattle herders, and it is not unusual to see large herds of livestock. Gir is most easily reached by flights from Mumbai to Diu airport, 110 kilometres from the park. In future flights may operate to Keshod, just 40 kilometres from Gir. The park opens from mid-October to mid-June; the best time to visit is between November and March.
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