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The Gir is known all over the world as the last home of the Asiatic lion. The lion was once widely distributed in Asia Minor and Arabia through Persia to India.

In the Indian sub-continent, its range extended over northern India, as far as east up to Bihar, with the Narmada river marking the southern limit. Before the close of the last century, the Asiatic lion had become extinct from its range except Gir. The probable years of its extermination region-wise were Bihar 1840, Delhi 1834, Bhavalpur 1842, Eastern Vindhyas & Bundelkhand 1865, Central India & Rajasthan 1870 and Western Aravallis 1880. The last animal surviving in the wild outside Saurashtra was reported in 1884.

By the end of the last century, the then Nawab of Junagadh indicated the number of lion to be a dozen in the Gir. Lions struggled to survive during one of the most severe famines between the years 1901 to 1905 as they killed many human beings and domestic cattle. The Nawab of Junagadh provided adequate protection to the animals and population of lion increased between the years 1904 to 1911. After the death of the Nawab, about 12 to 13 lions used to be shot annually. From the year 1911 onwards, shooting was rigidly controlled by the British Administration and during the year 1913, the Chief Forest Officer of Junagadh reported that there were not more than 20 animals in the Gir Forests.

Population estimates of lion given before 1936 were only estimations based on personal knowledge and the first organized census was conducted in 1936 which showed a population of 287 lions. The results of estimate of lions in the Gir Forests during the previous censuses are as follows:

The onslaught of human pressure resulted into shrinkage of the Lion’s habitat and now what remains with us is the Gir as the last refuge of the endangered mammal.

Wildlife conservation programme for the Asiatic Lion was started by the forest Department from September 1965 with the declaration of 1265.01 sq. km area as sanctuary which was expanded up to 1412.1 sq. km till date. With implementation of wildlife management and Gir Development Scheme, population of lions increased gradually from 177 in 1968 to 359 in 2005. Similarly, herbivore population of major animals (Cheetal, Sambar, Nilgai, Wild boar, Four horned Antelope, Chinkara etc.) has also increased from abut 38221 in 1995 to 49965 in 2005.


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