Pune, 6th February 2024: The Maharashtra state cabinet granted approval on Monday for a leopard safari initiative in Ambe Gavhan village, Junnar, allocating a budget of Rs 80.43 crore for the project. Forest officials anticipate commencing work once they secure permission from the Central Zoo Authority (CZA). The government also disclosed plans to develop a tourism circuit in Junnar.
Last June, the forest department formulated a detailed project report and budget estimate for the leopard safari. The region boasts approximately 58,585 hectares of forest land, with a substantial leopard population, prompting local demands for the project. The CZA’s approval will be sought for the detailed project report, with a sanctioned fund of Rs 80.43 crore.
According to forest officials, the project will utilize 50 hectares of land, with 30 hectares dedicated to the safari and 20 hectares for ancillary facilities like veterinary services and ticketing. The fenced area will house a total of 16 leopards, with eight in day shelters and eight in night shelters. The safari is expected to be operational for eight months, excluding the monsoon season.
A senior forest department official mentioned that once CZA approval is obtained, the project’s completion is anticipated within a year, with plans to open it to the public in 2025. The allocated funds will be utilized for constructing roads, caves, safety walls, and entry gates for the safari.
Junnar forest division currently hosts around 400 leopards. The project, initially approved during the BJP-Shiv Sena government, faced relocation to Baramati under the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. However, with the return of the BJP to power, the project was reinstated in Junnar, with budget provisions announced. Leopard attacks have seen a significant rise in the Junnar division over the last five years, covering four tehsils – Junnar, Ambegaon, Shirur, and Khed.