The Ambardi Safari Park, which, was planned to distribute the Asiatic lion tourism flow in Sasan in Gir (west) forest, has attracted more than one lakh tourists since it was opened three years ago. But data suggests that tourist footfall at Devaliya Interpretation Zone (GIZ) near Sasan, the village in Gir (west) forest known for its lion safaris, has remained unaffected with officers saying that the new safari park could have tapped into new tourist circuit.
Located on the scenic bank of Khodiyar dam near Dhari village of Amreli district, Ambardi Safari Park was inaugurated by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani in October, 2017. By March this year, 1,32, 895 tourists had visited the park, as per data from forest department. According to the data, 44,823 tourists visited the park in 2017-18.
Another 50,126 visited it in 2018-19 and 37,946 in 2019-20 even as the park was closed to tourists 10 days prior to end of the financial year due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The tourism generated total Rs2.23 crore revenue for the forest department.
Despite around 50,000 tourists visiting the Ambardi park annually, tourist footfall at GIZ, which is popularly known as Devaliya safari park, has remained unaffected. In fact, in year 2017-18, the year in which the Ambardi lion safari park thrown open to tourists, number of tourists who visited Devaliya safari park was 4.19 lakh, the highest in the past five years.
The following year, 3.69 lakh tourists visited Devaliya and another 3.80 lakh in the truncated year 2019-20.
While the number of tourists at Devaliya in 2015-16 and 2016-17 was 3.85 lakh and 3.93 lakh respectively, data shows.
Data suggests that tourist flow at Ambardi park has been roughly 10 per cent of Devaliya but the footfall at the latter hasn’t seen any significant dip.
“It seems tourists going to Tulshishyam and Diu are the ones who are preferring to watch lions in the Ambardi park whereas those visiting Devaliya are following a different circuit. Data seems to suggest that tourist flow has not diverted from Devaliya to Ambardi,” Dushyant Vasavada, Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) of Junagadh wildlife circle said.
While inaugurating the Ambardi park, Rupani had expressed hope that the new 400 hectare safari park carved out of the Ambardi reserved forest on the edge of Gir (east) forest would decrease pressure of eco-tourism at Devaliya safari park as well as lion safaris inside the tourism zone inside the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in Gir (west). Both parks, however, exhibit almost same kind of animals in similar surroundings and having same rates of entry tickets.
“Facilities and animals at both the parks are very much similar save the leopard enclosure in Devaliya. We are constructing a similar enclosure in Ambardi,” Vasavada further said.
Gir forest and other protected areas are the only natural home of Asiatic lions in the world.
The world’s only sub-population of this species of big cats is surviving in this landscape spread across Junagadh, Amreli, Gir Somnath and Bhavnagar districts.
In these two safari parks, captive-bred lions and other wild animals are kept in semi-captivity in their natural surroundings.
The parks resemble much the Gir forest except for the pucca tracks on which tourist vehicles transact.
Eco-tourism at Sasan has been growing at rapid pace, especially after actor Amitabh Bachchan highlighted the prestine forest and Asiatic lions in the Khooshbu Gujarati Ki promotional campaign of the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited (TCGL).
The increasing rush of tourists has persuaded the state government to open Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary, a protected forest overlooking Junagadh city, to tourism.
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