The only remaining population of fewer than 300 Asiatic lions or the Panthera leo survives in the Gir Hills in the south of the Kathiawar Peninsula. Sasangir National Park or Gir National Park is a dry, rugged area of thorn forest or scrub with scattered patches of dry deciduous woodland. The forest and grassland area is over 545 sq miles of which 116 sq miles of core area has been declared a National Park in 1975. Sasan, with a forest guesthouse is the headquarters of the sanctuary. Close to being an extinct species, the number of Asiatic lions has been steadily rising since 1980 in this safe haven.
The lions are mainly found in the western part of the Sasangir National Park, between Sasan Gir and Chhodavadi, where there is more woodland, dominated by teak, than in the east. The Asiatic lion is slightly smaller than its African cousin and its mane is smaller too. But a large male lion of the Gir is indeed a sight to behold. They measure 2.75 meters in length and have a bigger tail tassel, bushier elbow tufts and more belly folds.
Sasangir National Park also has a large population of panthers and they are more visible here than in other Indian forests. Chital, sambar, nilgai, wild boar, four-horned antilope and chinkara are some of the deer species seen in this wildlife sanctuary. Among the other carnivores are the wild cat, the jackal and the hyena. The Gir is an excellent area for seeing marsh crocodiles in its rivers. The Sasangir National Park also has some reservoirs like the Nalsarovar Lake that provide the much needed moisture to the flora and drinking water to the native animals.
The sanctuary and park can be explored through vehicle, taking the route from Sasan Gir through Kankai and Chhodavadi to Tulsishyam and exploring the side roads. Jeep safari is very popular among tourists here. For tourists to have a closer look of the lions, watchtowers and hides have been raised near waterholes in Sasangir National Park.