THE country’s biggest Zoo and Rescue Centre took off here with inauguration of the rescue centre on 25 hectares within the Gorewada Reserve Forest. Constructed for Rs 27 crore, the Gorewada rescue centre has enclosures for tigers, leopards, monkeys, reptiles, birds and herbivores. The centre assumes significance due to the fact it finally meets the long pending demand for it in Vidarbha, a hotbed of man-animal conflict. Several leopards and tigers either trapped or rescued in injured condition had no place for accommodation. The new state-of-the-art centre has seven leopards, five females and two males, shifted from a Chandrapur facility. Generally aggressive in their small cages, they are resting peacefully in sprawling enclosures.
The Forest Department roped in Maharashtra Animal and Fishery Sciences University (MAFSU) for free treatment of animals in exchange for students getting a ready facility for practical studies.
The rescue centre is part of a grand Rs 450-crore international standard zoo project coming up on the 20 sq km Gorewada forest that has four leopards and hundreds of cheetals, sambars, monkeys and other herbivores. The zoo will have Indian and African safaris spread over 145 and 90 hectares respectively. The Indian safari will have 25 hectares each for tigers, leopards and sloth bears and 40 hectares for herbivore movement. The African safari will have 40 hectares African herbivores space and 25 hectare space for African lions. The African animals will be brought under exchange programmes. The zoo will have three trails that will give tourists wildlife experiences by virtue of five senses, trail of tribal villages depicting tribal lifestyle and deep time trail showing stages of human evolution. A new lake of 21 hectares will be created as an added tourist attraction.
On the other side of the forest that has substantial wildlife population, day and night safaris have already been started on a stretch of over 14 km to give a feel of a real wildlife sanctuary.
The whole project will be implemented on Public-Private Partnership with government stake of 51 pc and private stake of 49 pc in a joint venture company to be floated after tender process begins later this month. The government side will be represented by Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM). The entire project, hanging fire for over 10 years due to red tape and controversies, is expected to be completed in four years.