Sunday, May 12, 2013

A new address for Gir lions in Amreli this year-end

A new address for Gir lions in Amreli this year-end
The India Express

Tourists visiting Gujarat to get a glimpse of the Asiatic Lions might get to see them at a new address at Ambardi in Amreli district, the eastern end of Gir Sanctuary, by this year-end.

In view of burgeoning tourist rush during peak seasons at Sasan Gir, the state government is developing Gir Interpretation Zone Ambardi in Amreli on the lines of Devaliya park in Junagadh district.

"A replica of Devaliya park is being developed at Ambardi near Dhaari in Amreli district, which would be housing six to eight zoo-bred lions. The sanctuary is contiguous internally," Gujarat Chief Wildlife Warden C N Pandey said.

Gir National Park (Sasan Gir) is the last abode of Asiatic Lions, a protected area from south-east of Junagadh to south-west of Amreli. Devaliya park is situated near Sasan Gir. It is around 75-100 kilometres away from the proposed new zone in Amreli.

"It is a beautiful picturesque place near a river. The fencing work has been completed...animal houses have been constructed...just the infrastructure required for tourist handling is to be developed there," Pandey said.

The zone is being developed on an area of around 400 hectares with financial assistance from Centre as well as the state.

State forest department officials estimate that the new zone, which would have lions in a closed but natural environment along with host of other animals, could be opened for tourists by this year-end.

Guided bus tours would be made available to tourists, they said.

"The idea is to attract tourists arriving directly in Bhavnagar and Amreli...otherwise they have to travel all the way to south-western end of Sasan Gir in Junagadh," a forest department official said.

Sasan Gir has a defined tourism zone where tourists are usually allowed to go on eight routes. To handle rush during the peak season, officials open four new routes, but at times it is not sufficient to meet the demand.

Nearly 150 vehicles go inside the sanctuary on peak days during the season. Otherwise, 90 vehicles meet the tourist requirement on daily basis, a forest official said.

According to forest officials, after the launch of Khusboo Gujarat Ki, an ad campaign on tourism promotion featuring megastar Amitabh Bachchan, the tourist inflow at Sasan Gir has doubled in just the last two years, from around 1.29 lakh visitors in FY 2009-10 to 4.83 lakh in 2012-13. The ad campaign on state tourism promotion was launched in 2010.

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