UNTIL A CENTURY ago, the Asiatic lion roamed vast areas of India, from Gujarat all the way to Bihar in the east. Now, the Sasan Gir National Park is the only habitat left of the lion outside Africa. Asiatic lions are smaller than African lions, with a fold of skin along the belly. The males have shorter manes. About 320 lions live in Gir’s 259 sq km (100 sq miles) of dry scrub forest, By the early 1900s, the Asiatic lion had been hunted and poached almost to the point of extinction. Their remarkable resurgence in Gir is attributed to the conservation efforts of the erstwhile nawab of Bunagadh and, subsequently, the Gujarat government.
A number of rivers wind through Gir, making it a haven for a range of wildlife, including the caracal, the chausingha (four-homed antelope), the blackbuck and a substantial leopard population.