Tired of tourists, Gir lions go into hiding
THE TIMES OF INDIA
AHMEDABAD: A total of 31,584 tourists visited Sasan Gir but around 60% of the tourists had to return without seeing the lions or their pride in the sanctuary. There are several reasons for this but experts say that lions get little privacy for rest.
According to the forest department, there were 31,584 visitors to Sasan between October 20 and October 27, while 43,829 visited Devaliya and another 9,693 visited the newly inaugurated Ambardi reserve.
Amit Patel, a resident of Bapunagar who went to Gir on October 21, said that he had booked a place in two safaris - one in the evening and second in early morning.
"But in both the safaris, I could not see a single lion. I was able to see a lot of ungulates along the route but I could not see the big cats," Patel said. He further said that he was not alone in making this complaint as several other tourists also did not see any lion.
HS Singh, member of the National Board of Wildlife, said sightings of the bigs cats depend on several reasons. "The lions are obviously disturbed by the increasing number of vehicles in the forest during the vacation. Hence they move away from the tourism zone. Secondly the forest, at present, is lush green and hence the lions easily hide in the grasses making it difficult to be spotted," Singh said.
AP Singh, CCF Junagadh, admitted that sightings had fallen in number.
"The forest department has ensured that no jeep moves away from its route allotted to it," he said. "We have begun monitoring the movement of jeeps. Moreover, in the past, the lions were moved near the tourism route and all vehicles were moved to that route. But now this practice has been stopped," Singh said.
He further said that apart from this, the forest department, during the festive season, gives 150 permits and another 20 for VIP movements. All these permits are used up during the vacation; hence the big cats get disturbed and move away from the tourism zone.