The Asiatic Lions of Gir

Monday, March 27, 2017posted by Bruce 1:22 PM

India’s remarkable conservation success story…!

Female lion portrait in Gir web

Hunting lioness close-up in Gir National Park and Sanctuary (buffer zone)….! 

Once upon a time, the Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica) ranged from the Mediterranean through to the northeastern parts of the Indian sub-continent. The lion disappeared from all these areas due to reckless hunting and loss of habitat except for Gir forest where the last few individuals remained.

Chital and lioness in Gir web

Chital (spotted deer) buck passing close to a hunting lioness….!

In 1913, the Nawab of Junagadh and the government became aware that very few lions were left and outlawed all hunting, and began a conservation program to save the species from the threshold of extinction. Due to excellent management and conservation efforts by the Forest Department and immense support from the people of Saurashtra, this carnivore is surviving very well and some 523 individuals now roam in the Gir Asiatic Lion Conservation Area estimated at 22,000 square kilometers in Gujarat State.

Female lion yawning in Gir web

Hunting lioness yawning in a dry stream bed in the buffer zone of Gir National Park …!

I decided that it was time to visit Gir and on my finale safari for this year, I took the flight to Ahmedabad from Delhi and then an 8-hour taxi ride to the Asiatic Lion Lodge near to Sasan-Gir, a town close to the gate of Gir National Park & Sanctuary. Sightings of lions have been down but on my second morning, I got lucky.

Female lion in the treesnweb

Lioness coming through the trees following chital deer….!

I bumped into a hunting lioness in the ‘Buffer Zone’ very close to a village in a dry stream bed about 7.00am. She was sighted by the driver and was about a 100 meters away lying down waiting for some chital (spotted deer) but did not attack as the deer passed very close to her. She then got up, yawned and started moving towards us, and then crossed in front on my jeep at 5-6 meters staring right at me. She was in hunting mode and just kept going after the deer. I did not have much time at all and only got off a few shots shown here.

Asiatic lion male web

Lioness in Gir web

A male (above) and female lion (below) by Ramesh Sarvani….!

I would like to thank Karan Singh Chauhan, the resort manager and his staff for the great hospitality shown while I stayed at the ‘Asiatic Lion Lodge’ in Sasan-Gir. I would also like to thank Ramesh Sarvani for the use of his lion images for this post. Finally, special thanks goes to Anu Marwah, my agent in India. She has made this all possible and I look forward to future visits to this great country with some of the most amazing wildlife in the world.

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