Gir is generally associated and identified with Lions and
Leopards. However, Gir has also got a 'biodiversity rich wilderness' with
many wonderful smaller animals, visible only if one cares to observe more
In the dry deciduous tropical forests of Gir, the seasonal variation in vegetation is more severe than probably in any other life zone. A host of small mammals exploit treetops for food. Another varied population of small mammals, scurry about the forest floor, eating shrubs and herbs, looking for roots and foraging for fruits and seeds which drop from the trees. Dense thickets, fringed with glades of lush grass, provide home to countless small life forms. The Gir plains also support a wide range of small plant eating animals that usually escape our attention.
Ever square kilometre hides a profusion of wildlife, some big and mostly small. They range from the large mammals to smaller ones, from reptiles to birds to the countless, but nonetheless equally fascinating insects and of course the variety of plants that give Gir its distinctive flavour.
Gir forest is inhabited by three smaller wildcats - the
Jungle Cat, Desert Cat and the Rusty Spotted Cat. The attempt in this park
is not just to save the Lions, but the entire kingdom of the Lions.
The Jungle Cat is the most widely distributed of all the three wildcats found in Gir, mostly occupying deciduous, thorn scrub and riverine areas. Rarely have they been sighted in grassland areas. With long legs and a rather short tail ringed with black, the colour of its fur varies from sandy grey to yellowish grey. The Jungle cat frequents by day, usually in the mornings and evenings. Very swift and string for its size, it is capable of bringing down fairly large prey.
The Desert Cat is rare to sight, observed in flatter dry deciduous scrub or thorn scrub forest areas. Easily distinguished by its spots, this cat is not much larger than domestic cats and has pale yellow fur marked with black spots. The end part of the tail is also ringed with black. Very little is known about the habits of this cat, except that it lives in deserts and scrub jungle, where its prey consists mainly of Gerbils and other small rodents and birds.
RUSTY SPOTTED CAT
The Rusty Spotted Cat was recently discovered in Gir and Girnar, though in earlier wildlife records, it was reported only in the Dang forests and south of it. It inhabits thorn scrub to dry deciduous forests with flatter to gently undulating terrain in GIR. With head and body length of just 0.3m it is one of the smallest cats in the world! A Western Ghat animal of the forests and scrubland of southern India and Sri Lanka, it hunts mostly at night.
COMMON OR HANUMAN LANGUR
Langur is a common name for Indian long tailed, slender monkeys that are commonly found even outside the protected areas. Langurs are arboreal (tree dwelling) animals that live in troops and feed on a variety of vegetation. Langurs have eyes set at the front of the head, giving them binocular vision and the ability to judge distance and depth.
Found in smaller to larger troops, langurs usually occupy top and middle canopy of dry deciduous, mixed deciduous and riverine forest areas. They inhabit flat to gently sloping terrain and banks of the streams. When on the forest floor, they are seen foraging along with Chital and Peafowl. Their local movements usually coincide with flowering, fruiting and new flush of leaves in trees. In India, Langur are considered sacred, and troops of the animals sometimes feed undisturbed on crops.
This strange looking animal with an uneven gait is usually seen either singly or in pairs. Unlike Instead of killing their own prey, most of the time they prefer to feed on carcasses. They inhabit dry deciduous, riverine areas, ravines and streams, and often close to human habitation. The hyenas attack in packs at night ripping open the flanks of their prey and carry off the carcasses. They also take on the mighty Lions and are eternal enemies.
Jackals, usually move in pairs, occupying riverine areas and water holes, mixed deciduous, as well as open thorn scrub and grassland areas. Being from a dog family, they possess a deep chested and compact muscular body for endurance and lungpower. The feet are adapted to the long pursuit of prey and the search for food over hard ground. The jackal is nocturnal in areas inhabited by humans, but may be active during the day in areas where it is not harassed.
RATEL OR HONEY BADGER
Ratel is a small mammal that resembles the Badger in size, shape, and habit, but is more fierce and aggressive. It is also very secretive and one should consider oneself lucky if one spots them at Gir. The Ratel is omnivorous (animals that eat both plant and meat), that feeds on Honey Bees, Fruits, and flesh of small animals. They live in wide variety of habitats such as mixed deciduous and teak forests, open rocky country and sometimes riverbed areas.
The fox is the smallest member of the dog family, which also includes Wolves, Jackals, and Dogs. Foxes are characterised by short legs, an elongated narrow muzzle, erect triangular ears, thick fur, and a long bushy tail. However, foxes are rarely seen in Gir.
The Porcupine is a unique herbivorous rodent with long, pointed spines, or quills growing from the back and sides of its body, and distinct crest of stiff bristles on the head and shoulder. Porcupines are usually solitary but may be found in pairs. They are mainly nocturnal in habit. Besides its usual diet, Porcupines also gnaw at bones and dropped antlers of Deer.
When alarmed or provoked, they erect their spines, grunt and puff, and rattle their hollow tail quills. But their method of attack is peculiar. The animal launches itself backwards at great speed and drives it erect quills deep into the offender with very painful and at times even fatal results. Quills damaged in action or from other causes are replaced. Some Leopards like Porcupine's meat and specialise in killing them without getting injured. All other animals steer clear of this animal armed with such a deadly weapon.
Pangolin, also known as the scaly anteater is a common name for certain mammals that are almost entirely covered with brown, horny, overlapping scales. The Pangolin's thick, prehensile tail makes up a large part of its body. For protection while sleeping, or when frightened, the pangolin curls up into a tight armoured ball, exhibiting an enormous muscular power that defies an ordinary attempt to unroll it.
SMALL INDIAN MONGOOSE
The Mongoose has a tapered head, long tail, short feet and a sleek body covered with long and silky soft hair. The colour is usually olive brown, which makes for a good camouflage. Being diurnal (active during the day) it rests at night in a burrow dug by itself. During the day it hunts for food, treading the same paths consistently and keeping in cover of vegetation.
The mongoose is best known for its ability to kill even the largest and most poisonous Snakes. It is not immune to poison, but its swiftness and quick reflexes allows it to seize and kill poisonous Snakes such as the cobra.
SMALL INDIAN CIVET
The small Indian civet is a furry mammal that looks somewhat like a long, slender Cat, but has a more pointed snout, a fluffier tail, and shorter legs than a cat. Civets use their tails to grasp branches and to steady themselves while climbing trees. Civets live within a specific territory. They move about chiefly at night. They live alone, except for females and their young. They take shelter in holes or under rocks or rest in grass or under bushes.
A Pig like snout and habituated to stay in hedges gives this animal its name. They are similar in appearance to the Porcupine, but more closely related to the Mole and Shrew. The distinctive feature of this animal is its ability to curl up into a ball of bristles that no one dares to touch! If handled, it throws its back up with a sudden jerk to drive the spines into one's fingers. Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals that come out to feed at dusk and retire at the break of dawn.
GREY MUSK SHREW
The Grey Musk Shrew is a Mouse like mammal, related to the mole, with a long, pointed snout, depressed ears and soft, grey brown, velvety fur distinguishing them from rats. Shrews are active, nocturnal animals that scurry about constantly in search of food. They are known to eat Mice equal to their own size.
The Hare has perfected the art of staying still. It is surprising how even the keenest eyed predators fail to detect their prey when it is motionless. In fact, freezing in their tracks seems to work even without camouflage. The Indian Hare has colouration that blends well with the surroundings of Gir. Yet, it has many predators. Jackals, Wild Cats and even Mongoose prey upon them. In Gir, there have been records of crocodiles coming out of their watery domain to catch a Hare.
INDIAN FLYING FOX OR GREATER FRUIT BAT
The largest of the Indian Bats, they are so named because of their long, Dog like muzzles. The Indian Flying Fox is from the Bat family and is the only mammal capable of sustained flight. In all, 850 to 900 species of bats exist, far more than in any other mammalian order except the order of total abundance. Places where bats roost during the day, called 'Colonies', are huge and can contain tens of thousands of members. When they fly out to feed, it is not unusual to see them endlessly flying overhead to their feeding grounds.
The Indian flying Fox can fly very long distances and have an uncanny memory for the location and fruiting time of trees. Bats are known to frequent the same feeding area over a long period of time and move from one place to another in search for food with relative ease.