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Asiatic lions
Leopard
Spotted deer
Sambar deer
Langur monkeys
Wood owl
Marsh crocodile
List of mammals
Lions once lived throughout sub-Saharan and northern Africa, in parts of southern Europe and across Asia as far as India. But after centuries of persecution by humans the Asiatic lions of Gujarat are the only naturally-occurring population outside Africa. The Asiatic sub-species is therefore classified as Critically Endangered. The Gir Forest Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1965 to conserve the lions. It covers over 1400 square kilometres, but only the National Park (a central area of 258 square kilometres) is fully protected.

Until recently, Gir Forest was a conservation success story, with lion numbers increasing from a low of around 20 animals to almost 360. But starting in early March 2007 there was a disastrous spate of poaching, compounded by the deaths of many lions (and other animals) that had fallen into illegally-dug open wells. The number of lion deaths rose alarmingly throughout March and into April 2007, but then a breakthrough came with the arrest of a gang of poachers. These people have also been responsible for decimating tiger populations elsewhere in India, but will hopefully now be prosecuted and taken out of action.
Asiatic lions

India's lions look similar to their African cousins, but have a characteristic fold of skin along their belly. 
The Asiatic males also have a scantier mane, but we only saw lionesses and youngsters on our visit. The vast majority of India's lions live in the Gir Forest, although as the population has grown some animals have dispersed about outside the protected area. The lions can be difficult to locate in the dense forest, but once found they are extremely relaxed around vehicles and people. These factors have made them increasingly vulnerable to poaching.
Asiatic lioness
Asiatic lioness Asiatic lioness
Asiatic lioness Asiatic lioness
Young lioness & lion

Young Asiatic lioness
Young Asiatic lion

Leopard

Not a brilliant picture, but the only evidence of our leopard encounter!
The Gir Forest has one of the densest populations of leopards in India (over 300 animals) but although they are the most widespread and numerous big cat, leopards are notoriously elusive. This animal took us by surprise when it shot across the road about 8 metres (26 feet) in front of our jeep. It then ran up the wooded valley side before turning to crouch down and survey us for a few seconds from a safe distance.
Leopard

Spotted deer or chital

Spotted deer are an important prey species for large carnivores in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The Gir Forest is home to almost 47,000 spotted deer which is probably the main reason why the reserve can support so many lions and leopards. Calves
like the one on the right can be born at any time of year, and we saw lots of youngsters during our visit. The young stag below was growing his first set of antlers, so he was chewing on an antler shed by an older male to get the minerals he needed.
Spotted deer calf
Spotted deer Spotted deer
Spotted deer
Sambar deer

Sambar are India's biggest deer - the
stags are 1.5 metres (5 feet) tall at the shoulder and can grow enormous antlers. The Gir Forest supports almost 3000 sambar, and although a pride of lions could kill one they are not a key prey species for the big cats. Sambar have quite thick coats in winter which they moult as summer approaches. The stag on the right had been scratching himself on a tree to help the moult along.
Sambar deer
Sambar deer Sambar deer

Hanuman langur monkeys

Hanuman or common grey langurs are a common sight in India's forests and in some towns and villages. Their tails are 1 metre (over 3 feet) long, and help them balance as they leap through the trees at high speed. Because of the religious status of the species (Hanuman is the Hindu monkey deity), these langurs are rarely harmed by humans and are therefore very relaxed around people and jeeps. Their main predators are leopards and lions, and the surest signs of a big cat are the frantic alarm calls of the langurs and spotted deer.
Hanuman langur monkey
Hanuman langur monkey Hanuman langur monkey
Hanuman langur monkeys
Mottled wood owl

Around 30 species of owl are found in India, and the mottled wood owl is a widespread resident. However, these birds are superbly camouflaged as they rest in their tree holes and they can be very difficult to spot.
Mottled wood owl in tree hole
Marsh or mugger crocodile

Marsh or mugger crocodiles are widespread in India and the surrounding countries, but that is the limit of their range and the species is classified as Vulnerable
in conservation terms. They are mainly found in and around freshwater where they will tackle virtually any potential prey. Muggers can reach over 5 metres (16 feet) in length and have even been filmed fighting with adult tigers, but this animal was doing nothing more exciting than basking in the morning sunshine.
Marsh crocodile

Full list of mammals seen at Gir Forest National Park:

Asiatic lion
Leopard
Golden jackal
Small Indian mongoose
Spotted deer
Sambar deer
Nilgai or blue bull
Wild boar
Hanuman langur monkey
Northern palm squirrel
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Last updated 3 September 2007