Nothing more than a castle in the air, the forest department which till now has failed to maintain Tiger Safari in Ludhiana, is now aiming for Punjab’s first Lion Safari in Mattewara forests.
The ambitious Rs 27-crore plan to develop Mattewara into an open safari for visitors including a lion safari is waiting for approval and has already been submitted to Chief wildlife warden with inputs from district forest officer Daljit Singh Brar.
This will be first Lion Safari in Punjab, the only other being in Chandigarh at Chhatbir Zoo where visitors can have a look at king of the jungle. However, the already existing Tiger Safari near Jalandhar Bypass is crying for attention of government as after death of its three tigresses last year, another one has failed to arrive.
Now only the two tigers- Mani and Deepak- roam alone waiting for a mate after death of Mohini, Elaichi and Shanti. The question also looms large that from where Punjab government will be arranging lions for proposed Lion Safari.
It is to be noted that in 2011- two Asiatic lions- Hailey and Gagan- were brought to Chhatbir and that too after CM Parkash Singh Badal pleaded then Gujarat CM and now Prime Minister Narendra Modi to send the lions for breeding purposes. While Gagan died within four months, Hailey too was diagnosed with severe liver problems few months back by doctors of Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University.
Not only this, sources confirmed that the master plan was presented in front of the central authorities asking for the sanction of Rs 5 crore for zoo and Tiger Safari way back in 2009 but nothing happened on ground. The plan includes major proposed tasks like construction of Crocodile Park, new cages for animals, recruitment of additional staff, new vans for safari, latest fencing for entire forest area, installation of new swing sets for children and new canteen to name a few.
Even in Mattewara forest area, which is almost 1900 acres – work to fence the entire land with 9 feet long walls and pillars has started few days back but encroachments done by people including some political families and problem of sand mafia are still the biggest challenges to develop a lion safari.
Meeting next week to discuss lion safari project in detail
Talking to Newsline, Dhirendra Singh, chief wildlife warden Punjab said, “We have started work to fence Mattewara forest land. The plan is to convert in into an open safari where various animals like neelgai, sambhar, deers etc can be viewed. Lion Safari is another part and total project costs around Rs 27 crore.” Asked about availability of lions, he said, “We are yet to decide from where lions will be procured but it is too early to say that. First the fencing alone with take more than a year.” Asked about pathetic state of Tiger safari he said, “I agree that there are only two tigers in Ludhiana safari but they are under examination from doctors to ascertain if they are suffering from any infection due to which three other tigresses died. Once it is confirmed that they are well, we will think of getting mate for them but currently there are no plans.” District forest officer, Daljit Singh Brar too confirmed to Newsline that ‘a meeting will be held next week to discuss Mattewara lion safari project in detail.’ Meanwhile, Dr Sandeep Jain, from Animal Welfare Board of India, said, “Lion safari is not an easy task especially for Punjab government which has failed to maintain tiger safari. Lions live in pride and need proper care and facilities. Gujarat was not ready to send lions to Punjab even in 2011 but somehow we got them but failed to keep them properly. The first priority of government should be to get tigresses for already existing Safari which is in ruins.” ENS