Friday, June 08, 2007

'Leopard safaris' to start soon in Indian state

Nagpur, June 7: Maharashtra will have a 'leopard safari' at four different places soon, Minister for Forests Babanrao Pachpute announced here today.

Speaking to newsmen, Mr Pachpute said the 'leopard safaris' would be established at Nashik, Pune, Ahmednagar and Jalgaon. Tourists would be taken into the forest along a track covered by a hood to give them a look of the beasts up close.

The hood would provide one-way vision from inside, and those inside would not be visible from the outside, he said.

This would not only provide an added attraction to tourists and wildlife enthusiasts, but would also help in solving the problem of frequent leopard intrusions into human habitation since the jungles at the four places would be treated as 'leopard reserves' into which wayward beasts, if any were caught, would be released, the Minister said.

The sites for the 'leopard safaris' were being identified and work would begin soon, he said.

Mr Pachpute said the Maharashtra State Eco-Tourism Board would be formed on June 14. The Chief Minister would be the chairman of the board, while the Forest Minister would be its vice chairman.

The members would include the Minister for Tourism and the secretaries in the departments of forests, tourism and revenue, he informed.

There were plans to give 'service arms' to Forest Guards in the state on the lines of those issued to employees of the police department, Mr Pachpute said, adding that it would be necessary to amend the relevant law to make this possible.

A bill to make the amendment would be brought before the legislature soon, he said.

Replying to questions, Mr Pachpute said the government had decided to catch and tame elephants that intruded into Maharashtra from neighbouring Karnataka rather than trying to drive them away.

The Forest Department would construct lock-ups in all its 11 circles in the state to keep offenders in custody, he said and added that the department has planned to have lock-ups at the divisional level soon. action=fullnews&id=37058

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