- Published on 19 November 2013
By Neha Amin
Gujarat Global News Network, Ahmedabad
Asiatic lions, popularly known as Gir lions, are a major attraction among tourists world over.
The popularity and appeal of these lions is beyond narrow and niche world of eco tourism. Pressure of population of these lions in their famous home adjoining Junagadh district and tourist pressure in that area is hitting headlines in newspapers.
But little is known about what can be called as extended homes of Gir lions in the Bhavnagar and Amreli districts adjoining to the well known Junagadh district. Ranigala, part of Bhavnagar district, is a gateway to one of the extended homes of world famous Gir lions.
It’s a natural home for Gir lions.In a period of five years population of Gir lions here has increased from 14 (in 2005) to 33(in 2010) and near future may see figure touching 100. This is a natural optimism considering the hilly terrain of the forest area here and the love of locals for the King of lions.
People of the area are born with love for lions and offer one of the best examples of co-existence of man in the wild, says a local beat guard here who knows about these lions like the back of their palm.
Forest department is actively considering a plan to develop this region, part of what is known as Bruhad Gir area, as eco tourism site. If world famous Somnath temple is near the known Gir forest site for lions, world renowned Jain pilgrim town is not very far off from this extended home of the Gir lions.
K S Randhawa, IFS, who has developed a blue print for the Ranigala site, sees the coming up new address of Gir lions as a place where religious tourism and wildlife tourism merging into a well developed eco tourism site. Randhawa who is here for the last six years is very much concerned about the agile fabric of wild life tourism and has in his plan all steps to ensure that tourist pressure does not take toll of natural life of these lions.
Randhawa has conceptualized a very innovative approach in his master plan for the project. To be developed with the involvement of private sector the entire project will cost government just Rs 5.51 crore, he says.
The major aspect is that Ranigala has approach 30 kms away at Vadal which is just 50 kms from Palitana. Once one reaches Vadal, he is to be ferried on Vehicles specially kept for tourists. The 30 km journey from Vadal to Ranigala will be a kind of initiation exercise where tourists will be given briefing about the forest and wildlife.
He says all the private vehicles will be parked at Vadal and all the visitors based on the availability of permits for the visit to the forests on priority basis will be provided with the A.C. luxury buses (30 seater each) to drop them at Ranigala site. The A.C.buses would have all the interpretation facilities like LED TV with DVD player, mike system etc.
During the journey of about 30 Km. from Vadal to Ranigala,the trained guide / expert will explain to all the tourists in bus about the wildlife in general and also about the lions in particular along with the other issues relating to the habitat of wildlife. The awareness generated amongst the tourists in the bus will be very useful both for the wildlife as well as for the tourists.
The tourists would be oriented for the do’s and don’ts before visiting the ecofragile habitat of wildlife in general and that of lions in particular. By virtue of this orientation the conflict with the wildlife as well as with the staff of core area will be reduced to large extent. Moreover it is very important to note that biotic pressure and other type of pollutions like air pollution due to vehicles and noise pollution etc will be reduced to large extent in and around the lion habitat.
As the bus service will be provided, we can regulate the movement of private vehicles in eco-fragile areas of lion habitat, he says. In this way this model will be a different and innovative model for eco-tourism in real sense.
In this model, the development of infrastructure for lodging and boarding facilities by the private agencies will be developed near the reception center at Vadal which would not affect the corridor of lion movement and other wildlife negatively.
It is being observed that in most of the protected areas the corridors of wildlife movements have been broken due to the development of unplanned and unregulated infrastructure which has been developed looking to the economic interests only. In this model, the economic interests will facilitate the ecology of the lion habitat.
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