It was at the end of the 18th century when worried over the dwindling population of lions, Lord Curzon declined an invitation to hunt and requested the Nawab to take steps to conserve the species. The Gir lion population had been reduced to a very low number by the early years of the 20th century : fewer than 20 according to the Chief Forester of Junagadh. However the neighboring ruler, the Jam Saheb of Nawanagar, felt that the ruler of Junagadh was giving low numbers in order to dissuade hunters and that there were about 100 lions.
In the post-Independence years, conservationists such as Dharmakumarsinhji of Bhavnagar, and Dr.Salim Ali urged the then Prime Minister Jawarharlal Nehru to save the lion. The result was that in 1965 Gir was formally declared a Sanctuary and in 1974 was declared a National Park.
Lions at Gir National Park
The Gir forest is an isolated patch of natural vegetation in the Saurashtra peninsula. It covered more than 3,000 square kilometers, as measured by the Great Trigonometrical Survey of 1877. Today, the remaining forest barely covers 1,500 square kilometers. Even though the lion population has increased in the last few decades the fact that their natural habitat is restricted and hemmed in by human settlements on all sides is a major limiting factor to its potential for growth. The establishment of a second free-ranging population is imperative for enhancing the long-term prospects of the Asiatic lion.
Nature Conservation at Gir Forests and Wildlife Reserve
While it is important to preserve the Gir forest because it is the last home of the last surviving gene pool of the Asiatic Lions ( Panthera leo persica ), very few people know that there are other factors also which make it important to save this place. Gir is the largest compact tract of dry deciduous forest in the semi arid Western part of India. It is home to the highest concentration of top carnivores - lions and leopards, and also has the single largest population of marsh crocodiles in the country.