Friday, May 11, 2007

Now, a lion safari outside Gir


Times of India


RAJKOT/AHMEDABAD: The forest department has moved a proposal to create a lion safari outside the Gir sanctuary. The safari, on the lines of the Devalia interpretation park near Sasan, will come up on 400 hectares of forest land in the Dhari range and will house up to a dozen lions.


While Devalia, which has as many lions, is located on the western end of the Gir sanctuary, the new safari at Ambardi will be outside the eastern end of the sanctuary. The idea is to reduce tourist pressure on the sanctuary and give domestic tourists another location to sight lions in the wild.


Like Devalia, the Ambardi project, which is still p e n d i n g clearance f r o m t h e Central Zoo Authority of India, will have zoo-bred lions which will be fed by the forest staff. The second safari will also solve the problem of giving protection to weaklings among lion cubs which are often abandoned because they are unable to keep pace with the rest of the pride.


Devalia gets about one lakh tourists every year, most of them day tourists from the neighbouring area, who return satisfied after sighting lions in this safari area, and do not feel the need to roam around the Gir sanctuary to spot the weal wild beats. "Unlike safaris in other states which are smaller in nature, the Gujarat safaris are big enough to give a real feel of the wild," said a senior forest official.


The area around Ambardi does not have a permanent settlement of lions, though many lions from the sanctuary often stray into the region where a park will now be created.


The forest department hopes the second safari will further reduce the vehicular and tourist traffic inside the sanctuary which is necessary to allow the lions some peace and privacy.


The department has also suggested the government that tourist fee inside the sanctuary be hiked substantially, while keeping the entry fee for the safaris at a very nominal level in order to reduce the pressure on the sanctuary.

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