AHMEDABAD: Gir, the only place in the world where you can see Asiatic lions in the wild, recorded its maximum visitors in the 12 months till March 2011.
The sanctuary registered a footfall of 2.71 lakh tourists in this period, which is 32 per cent higher than 2009-10. Forest department sources say there was a 19 per cent rise even among foreign tourists. The sanctuary has 411 lions as per the May 2010 census.
The data reveals that 55 per cent of these tourists came in November, December and January. Of the 6,152 foreign tourists who visited Gir in the year till March last, 3,328 came in December, January and February. The trend was mainly because of festivals like Christmas, Diwali and Uttarayan.
"This year the rush began a week prior to the Uttarayan as the festival was on a weekend," said a forest official.
"We were expecting a record income this year, as during Diwali, Gir and Devaliya interpretation centre had recorded a income of around Rs 42 lakh in the 10 day between November 4 and November 13," he said. The main reason for the increase in the flow of tourists was the state government's decision to increase the permits issued during festive days from 90 to 150.
Deputy conservator of forest Sandeep Kumar said that the maximum income of Devaliya in a single day was Rs 4,68,000 in 2000, but the figure touched Rs 5,39,250 this year. Kumar said that this year apart from increasing the tourist permit the advertisement campaign Khushboo Gujarat Ki also played a major role in attracting tourists.