Young World

Home for the King

Do you know besides Africa, which is the only other place in the world where you can spot lions roaming free in the wild? No, it’s not the Discovery Channel. It’s the Gir National Park in Gujarat.

On private grounds

Tourists flock to the famous national park to catch a glimpse of the majestic Asiatic Lions — a species of lion — who are the park’s most famous residents. Even Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar couldn’t resist a picture with the lion in the background while at the park recently on a holiday.

Gir National Park is the only home of the Asiatic Lions in the world. Indiscriminate hunting led to their numbers reducing drastically, while the population in other parts of Asia was completely wiped out. They were last seen outside India in Iran in 1941. This would have been the case at the Gir Forests too if it had not been for the Nawab of Junagadh who protected the feline royalty in his own private hunting grounds. Since then, also due to the efforts of Forest Department officials, from a population of approximately 20 lions in 1913, they have grown to a comfortable 411 according to a census conducted in 2010; so much so that wildlife experts feel that they have outgrown the park and need to be moved!

But how can a few hundred lions outgrow 1142 sq.km. area (almost the size of Delhi) of national park and forest? That is because the King of the forest shares the park with several of his subjects — around 32,000 Indian spotted deer, and one of the largest populations of marsh crocodiles in the country. If you still think that’s not bad, consider also sharing your home with 300 leopards, 40 species of reptiles, 250 birds’ species, 2000 species of invertebrates and about 50 other species! No wonder they want to move out.

But that also means, as human visitors we have more to see and photograph — soft-shelled turtles, star tortoises, Indian rock pythons, monitor lizards, blue bulls, sambars, jackals, black buck, wild boar, chousinghas (the world’s only four-horned antelope), crested serpent eagles, laggar falcons, and the endangered lesser floricans and the saras cranes, besides many, many more.

Also visit:

After a rendezvous with the wild, opt for some lessons in history. The district of Junagadh, where Gir National Park is situated, has a rich history and is dotted with ancient forts, temples, mausoleums, and other proofs of its lineage.

Here are a few places you can include in your travel itinerary:

- The Ashokan Edicts, in the foothills of the mountains of Girnar

- Uperkot Fort

- Junagadh Zoo Museum

- Chorwad Beach

- Mahabat Maqbara Mausoleum

How to get there:

By road: 55 km from Junagadh City, 348 km from Ahmedabad, 156 km from Rajkot.

Closest railway stations: Ahmedabad/Rajkot/ Junagadh

Closest airports: Rajkot/Ahmedabad


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Printable version | Oct 27, 2021 2:47:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/kids/home-for-the-king/article5977930.ece

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