Thursday, November 03, 2011

Villagers poach on govt revenue, rake in big bucks with illegal safaris

Villagers poach on govt revenue, rake in big bucks with illegal safaris
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

With tourists inflow in Gir sanctuary increasing by leaps and bounds, illegal safaris are coming to the aid of those who fail to get permits to visit the sanctuary for sighting.

Lured by the opportunity to make some bucks, locals from the nearby villages have been offering visitors a chance to see lions in the open fields.

While the rates of the official safaris range between Rs 2000-Rs 4000 depending on the size of the group, charges for illegal safaris vary from person to person. In Babra Virdi, a group of ten lions is camping these days. However, due to intensified patrolling by forest department, visitors cannot be sure of what time they would be taken there to see the lions. Besides, Babra Virdi, the presence of lions in the local villages was also a good chance for the locals to earn quick money.

An official working for a private firm, who undertook this illegal safari, said "On October 29, when I failed to get a permit, one local shop owner assured me a sighting of lions. I was asked to pay Rs 3,000 and since we were a group of eight people, I agreed. After a long wait, we were taken to a field where four lions were sitting. We were not allowed to get down from the car. However, we could take photographs from a distance of about 250 meters."

A forest department staff said a couple of boys who work at local shop keep a tab on the tourists and number of permits being issued. Once the permits are over, they take over and offer safaris after 10 am or between 4pm to 6 pm.

A forest staff said these people organize at least three to four such safaris a day. They earn not less than Rs 10,000 per day. Principal secretary, forests and environment, S K Nanda, said, "There may be some who would be indulging in such illegal acts, but they are not organized. "

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