Gir National Park is a vitally important protected forest that is home to the last remaining wild population of the Asiatic lion in the world.
This iconic big cat once ranged across India, the Middle East and Turkey, but was hunted down to just 20 animals in the early 20th century. Since then, conservation efforts in the park and wider sanctuary have seen numbers return to over 650 in 2017. Locals, many living within remarkable proximity with the lions, are fiercely proud of their feline neighbours and the Asiatic lion is the state animal of Gujarat.
Distinguishable from its African cousins by a fold of skin running along their bellies and slightly shorter manes on the males, they are muscular cats ambushing prey such as deer, nilgai and boar in the dry teak and acacia forests of the sanctuary. Prides are small, usually containing a couple of females and cubs, with males protecting small territories.
Other wildlife to be spotted in the park includes leopard, striped hyena, honey badger, chinkara gazelle, porcupine, pangolin and jungle cat. Mugger crocodiles and monitor lizards can be found beside rivers, lakes and reservoirs within the park and birdlife is prolific with some 300-species recorded here.