Gir National Park, the only home to Asiatic lions, will remain closed for tourists during the monsoon season owing to the breeding of wild cats and conservation efforts being undertaken at the sanctuary, forest officials said.
“Its (Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary) closing is being done to provide some privacy to wild animals like lions, leopards and birds like peacocks etc during their mating season as the four months of monsoon period are considered the best for their breeding season,” divisional forest officer, Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, Sandeep Kumar said.
The Gir sanctuary, located at Sasan in Junagadh district, Gujarat, India is only home to pure Asiatic lions and attracts a large number of Indian as well as foreign tourists.
“Since we supervise the conservation efforts, we want to prevent any disturbance in the conservation activities, which could also be caused by the tourists. So we close the sanctuary,” Kumar said, adding that the park would be closed from June 16 and will reopen only in October after the monsoon season is over.
As per the 2010 census, the total number of lions in Gir sanctuary has risen to 411 from 359 in 2005. With a total area of 1,412 sq km (about 258 sq km for the national park and 1153 sq km for the sanctuary), the park is considered as safe haven for the lions and other species.
“It is also a natural habitat for leopards and antelopes like sambar, spotted deer, blue bull, black buck, and wild boar, jackal, hyena, langoors, porcupine, bear and crocodiles and over 250 species of birds,” Kumar said.
The officer also added that the roads in the park are kachcha and get damaged during monsoon. They need to be repaired before allowing tourists to visit (the park) after its closure period is over, he said.
“Not only that we have to monitor the movement of wild animals during rains and in case of heavy rain in the area, we have to chalk out a rescue plan and taking them to safer places,” added Kumar.
In addition, if big cats fall sick, we have to make arrangements for their treatment and that is why the closure of the park during monsoon season is required, he said.