Friday, January 22, 2010

Lion transfer will be big blow to Gujarat tourism

Lion transfer will be big blow to Gujarat tourism
Times of India

Gujarat may have been opposing the transfer of lions on grounds of wildlife survival, the real fear is that once the Asiastic lions were shifted to Madhya Pradesh (MP), they would
provide a major boost to the latter's tourism prospects.

Lions are pride of Gujarat and the main attraction for tourists from other states. As of now, Gir forest is the last abode of the Asiatic lion. Around one lakh tourists visit Gir and Devaliya interpretation zone every year.

Officials in the forest department say the state government is apprehensive about a dip in the tourist inflow to Gujarat which, it believes, is mainly for the Asiatic lions.

"Once the sanctuary is notified, MP can start issuing permits and allow tourists in the area where lions have been raised," say forest officials here.

A forest official said that MP, which has more tourist spots than Gujarat, and wildlife tours of tiger, panther, blue bull in Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Panna and other sanctuaries, would end up adding the lion as another of its tourism draws.

"Besides, Kuno Palpur where the lions are to be shifted is a very small area. So, the possibility of sighting a lion there would be greater than Sasan and will be a major attraction for tourists," said the official.

Former PCCF GA Patel agrees with the view. He says "Once the lions are handed over to MP, the state would use them to promote tourism. Nobody can stop them. Since Kuno Palpur has been notified as a sanctuary, they can easily promote tourism there as tourists are permitted to enter the sanctuary."

He said Gujarat would have to strongly oppose the shifting of lions or it would lose its biggest tourism asset and also monopoly over Asiatic lions. "The state has a strong point when it says that tiger and lions cannot stay together. Earlier efforts in this direction have failed and these are on record," he said.

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