The Environment ministry has given its final approval to Ambardi lion safari at the Gir National Park in Dhari taluka of Gujarat’s Amreli district, a senior state forest department official said. The ministry had earlier given an in-principle nod to the project, which aims to reduce the tourist rush in western part of the Gir National Park.
However, some representations by people opposed to the project and objections raised by Central Zoo Authority (CZA) delayed its final approval, the official said. “A committee headed by additional director general of wildlife of the Union ministry of environment and forest met yesterday where final approval was given to the project after a clearance was given by the CZA,” G K Sinha, principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife), said.
“We had submitted our last compliance report in February this year (in response to CZA queries and representations made by people opposed to the project),” he said.
“The safari will now be open for public as the required infrastructure is already in place. There will be three lions for public viewing along with herbivorous animals in 387 hectare of fenced area,” Sinha said.
The lion safari at Ambardi will be on the lines of Devaliya Safari Park in Junagadh district, he said adding that it will be helpful in reducing the pressure of tourists on western part of Gir National Park. “We need to shift tourists’ attention to the eastern part of Gir National Park due to increasing pressure on the western part,” he said.
The project was ready but got delayed due to objections made by a section of people who claimed that it will adversely affect the lions, he added.
Even after the case in Gujarat High Court went in favour of the state forest department, people opposed to the project and continued to make representations before the Central government, delaying it further, Sinha said.
According to the last census carried out by the state forest department in 2015, Gujarat is home to 523 Asiatic lions in Gir forest and other areas in Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts.