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Gir Forest National Park, also known as ‘Sasan Gir’ is a celebrated wildlife sanctuary of the state of Gujarat that provides a shielded refuge to the Asiatic Lions; one of the most endangered species that faces a high risk of extinction in near future. Established in the year 1965, the Gir Forest National Park boasts of being the exclusive abode of the pure Asiatic Lions and one of the most crucial protected areas of the Asia Continent. Positioned approximately 65 kilometers to the southeast of Junagadh, the Gir Forest National Park is spread over an extensive area of about 1412 square kilometers which is divided into two parts, i.e. the fully protected National Park (258 sq km) and the sanctuary (1154 sq km).
This forest region of Gir was declared a ‘conservation area’ by the then Nawab of the ‘Princely State of Junagadh’ in early 1900 s itself. This enterprise of the Nawab of Junagadh utterly assisted in the protection of the Asiatic Lions whose population had dropped down to only 15 as a result of the unrestrained hunting sports of the aristocrats and their hunger for hunting trophies. In consequence of the timely pronouncement made by the Nawab and the relentless endeavors of the Forest Department of State Government, Wildlife Activists and a number of NGOs, the Asiatic Lions and the eco system of Sasan Gir with its miscellaneous flora and fauna today stands appreciably safeguarded.
According to the records of the census of April 2010, the lion population in Gir is reported to be 411, which indicates an increase of 52 as compared to the count of census 2005 i.e. 359. The Lion Breeding Program has established a Lion Breeding Center at the Sakkarbaug Zoo of Junagadh which has effectively bred nearly 180 lions till today. The Asiatic Lions reside in dry scrub land and open deciduous forest. Despite the fact that the Gir Forest is well protected, the lions still face some lethal threats like being poisoned by the locals for attacking their livestock, epidemics, floods, fires and other natural calamities.
Gir Forest National Park due to its international repute as the only residence of Asiatic Lions receives deluge of domestic and overseas tourists every season. For promoting nature education and also reducing tourism danger upon the wildlife, an Interpretation Zone has been established at Devalia within the premises of Sasan Gir. Tourists can enjoy a safari tour in this Interpretation Zone where all types of the habitats of Gir Forest are kept inside the chained fences fortified by double gate entry system. The best period to pay a visit to the Gir Forest National Park is mid October to mid June. Tourists are requested to abide by the rules set up by the National Park authorities and not to disturb the peace and disrupt the order of the wildlife there.