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Experience True Luxury at the Jalore Wildlife Sanctuary
The Jalore Wildlife Sanctuary, established in 2005 in a remote jungle area of granite hills, savanna and forest, is the first and only privately owned and operated wildlife sanctuary in India. The sanctuary’s mission is to balance the needs of locals and wildlife by combining conservation and ecotourism.
The idea to create a new wildlife refuge in Jalore was first born out of discussions among a group of friends and family - Gajendra Singh Chouhan, a patron of the arts from Jodhpur, and his friends Shanane Davis and Ravindra Singh Chouhan from Kaniwara, a village near Jalore, and Ravindra’s father Baronet Balwant Singh Chouhan.
The piece of land that became the Sanctuary belonged to the Chouhan family. Gajendra and Ravindra had spent time on this land when they were children, and Ravindra, now a granite trader, was looking for someone interested in dealing in granite. As Gajendra and Ravindra started searching for potential business partners and decided to visit the area, they found out that a friend of Baronet’s had brought a couple of Europeans to the property to see the Gazelle that roam there.
On their way back Jodhpur, Gajendra and Shanane discussed the possibility of setting up a program to allow people to visit the land and see the Gazelle. They realized that if the Gazelle were present possibly other animals were as well, and after talking to Ravindra learned that small populations of Blue-Bull Antelope, wildcats, fox and birds were also present in Jalore. Hours later, the group decided to conserve and preserve their land for wildlife, and named it the Jalore Wildlife Sanctuary.
Days of discussion with walking safaris followed, as none of the four had any experience in wildlife conservation. They encountered many difficulties: For generations the people living in a village nearby had used the land for cutting and collecting firewood from the forest and for grazing their domestic livestock. Poachers also used the area for hunting of different wild animals for meat.
For seven generations, the high mountains past the savanna and forest belonged to the Chouhan family but with various laws passed when India became independent these connecting lands were confiscated by the government and declared the property of the forest department. The four decided it was vital to protect this land as well in order to ensure the recovery of the wildlife and eco-system.
As a way to balance the needs of locals and the wildlife conservation challenges, True Luxury Tours was founded as a mechanism to raise funds for local conservation efforts. The name, True Luxury Tours, reflect the founders’ belief that true luxury is not a mass produced labeled product or a commercialized five star hotel, but the ability to give clients unparalleled experiences that are truly one-off in a responsible manner.
Gajendra provided the initial investment in order to conserve the land and to help the wildlife populations to become stable. To revitalize the forest with indigenous plant and tree species, 2,000 indigenous trees and plants were planted in 2007 in areas of previous tree cover. The company has also conducted a wildlife population census and species-specific wildlife studies, and constructed a small eco-friendly safari camp site for a maximum of six guests per day.
It was found that the main prey species of the Asian Steppe-Wildcat, Jungle Cat, Great Horn Owl, Tawny Eagle, and the Imperial Eagle was the desert Zird. The desert Zird does not inhabit an area that has previously been farmed as it needs uncultivated hard soil for its survival. The Zird habitats were carefully studied to ensure the areas were not disturbed during re-forestation. Today, the Zird population is thriving, and is an important part of the wildlife populations in the sanctuary.
Another significant challenge to the development of the sanctuary was regulating poaching and tree cutting, and reducing burden on the land by wood collection and the grazing of domestic livestock by the local villagers. Meetings with villagers were held to inform them on the protection of the area, and to find solutions for their domestic animals to graze without disturbing the ecosystem.
A system was developed to limit grazing to a certain area, which, divided into zones, was to be grazed on a rotating basis; each zone would be grazed for a limited time each year and then closed for the rest of the year to recover. Villagers were hired to help monitor poaching (no poaching incidences have since been reported).
After a year of negotiation, the nearest granite mine that operated on the border of the sanctuary was closed permanently in 2007. It was a significant achievement, as certain species (Leopard, Asian Steppe-Wildcat, and Desert Fox) had a route of hunting that followed a circular pattern through four valleys in the sanctuary that included the area occupied by this mine.
Those interested in contributing to the Jalore Wildlife Sanctuary’s conservation programs and experiencing unique wildlife in Jalore can participate in True Luxury Tours’ private tours. When you do so, you will be receiving authentic wildlife travel experience knowing that you are, at the same time, giving back 42% of the cost of your stay through True Luxury Tours to local conservation initiatives and wildlife studies. See information on rates and activities for 2010.