Thursday, September 28, 2006

Saifai Lion Safari to realise Mulayam's dream

Saifai Lion Safari to realise Mulayam's dream
Abhinav Pandey, Lucknow, Sept 28: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav's native village of Saifai in Etawah district would soon have the distinction of having the state's first lion safari, which will house endangered Asiatic lions.
Yadav's dream lion safari project at Fischer forest area in his constituency is likely to take shape on 35 hectares of land with a cost of Rs 18.57 crore. The Asiatic lions, which are facing a serious threat of extinction, would be given natural breeding atmosphere in the proposed safari in Saifai nesteled between the Yamuna and Chambal rivers, Forests Principal Secretary V N Garg told PTI.  These royal beasts were found roaming in south-western Asia and northern India barely 200 years ago and are now confined to a small pocket in Gir forest reserve of Gujarat only, he said.
Etawah district had a remarkable similarity of temperature and humidity, vegetation, ruggedness of the terrain with the Gir protected area, Garg added. This lion safari in Safai would be a special kind of zoo where the Asiatic lion would be kept for breeding so that the threat of their extinction could be minimised. About the breeding process, Garg said these lions breed very fast but the mortality rate of their cubs are very high.
"In the safari, with assured food we will surely succeed in bringing down the mortality rate," he said adding it would also be ensured that only pure Asiatic lions were kept in the safari so that chance of inter-breeding could be minimised. The government plans to borrow these Asiatic lions, to be kept in the Safari, from national zoos including one in Lucknow and Kanpur, Garg said.  Garg said the government had chalked out a "fool proof" plan and the budget for setting up the safari had been sent for approval to the planning department.
He said the Supreme Court had in an order in 2000 directed that no state government or union territory could set up a new zoo without getting clearance from the Capital Zoo Authority (CZA) and the court. The clerance from the CZA had been obtained and the matter was pending clearance from the apex court, which was expected soon. "Once the apex court's clearance is received the work on the proposed safari will begin," he said. Garg said the proposed lion safari would help encourage and provide an opportunity to the people of the state to learn about wild life protection and conservation. Besides, the western region of the state had no zoo thus depriving a vast population of an opportunity to know about the wild life, he said.
It would also provide the much needed fillip to the state's tourism sector as a large number of people are expected to visit the safari, he said. Safai has already been bestowed with an airstrip, a grand stadium cum sports complex and a state-of-the-art hospital on the lines of the Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of edical Sciences in Lucknow. The area is also notoriuous for dacoits which get a safe haven in the ravines of the Chambal river ensconsed by bhind and Morena districts of Madhya Pradesh across the river.

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