Saturday 27 May 2017 News Updated at 07:05 AM IST
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Fossil park to get a new look - Deccan Herald
Fossil park to get a new look
Tabeenah Anjum, Jaisalmer, DH News Service,
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One of the exhibits in Akal Wood Fossil Park near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. DH photo by Tabeenah Anjum
Jaisalmer was once a tropical region

One can see dunes of sand for long distances in Thar Desert. One hardly expects a park inside the desert-that too fossilised wood park. But it is true. Akal Wood Fossil Park, spread over 21 hectares, is located inside the desert and is about 8 km from Jaisalmer.

It is a real oasis in the desert for a visitor. The deafening silence is either disturbed by mild winds blowing across the desert or drumming sound of emus. Visitors are invariably welcomed by emus in the park.

Listed as the preferred monument on the website of the Geological Survey of India (GSI), the park has about a dozen fossils--wood logs put horizontally in random orientation. They are the signatures of the luxuriant forests in a warm and humid climate.

The fossils are of petrophyllum, ptyllophyllum, equisetitis species and dicotylethe donous wood and gastropod shells of lower Jurassic period. Some of the most important remains of geological history from the Indian deserts are the huge fossilised tree trunks and ancient sea shells. One such collection is fossilised wood, claimed to be nearly 180-million-year old.

Fossilised tree trunks of various sizes and sea shells in different shapes welcome the visitors to the park. From a distance, they appear like graves covered in iron enclosures. As the visitors get closer to them, he can spot the ageless fossils preserved inside the chambers.

The park has 12 such fossils and the cage number 12 has the longest specimen of about 13.4 m x 0.9 m. No visitor can miss that as it is considered to be a rare fossil and most tourists spend their time having a look at the rare exhibit. The park has 25 petrified trunks. However, a few of the petrified wood fossils are neither marked nor preserved inside enclosures.

Fossils are also believed to be deep inside earth and may be unearthed if explorations are taken up. The guard at the park says, "Tourists hardly visit the park. But those interested in geology or history and students take keen interest in the exhibits during their visits. Many even sit and sketch them by spending a lot of time.”

Tree rings on one petrified tree trunk is nearly a metre in diameter. In the middle of the park, one of the petrified logs is half buried in the sand and needs efforts to get the texture of the bark.

Entrance of the park has a display board Sangrahlya (museum) and an indicator points towards a small hut-shaped room with thatched roof. The museum showcases photographs of the fossils with brief description.

As the museum is maintained by the forest department, it also has details of Rajasthan’s state animal, "godavan” (great Indian Bustard). The park is open throughout the week between 9 am and 6 pm. The entry fee for Indians is Rs 10, while for foreigners Rs 20. And the rarities are a delight for photographers.

Known for its dinosaur trace fossils, the park is situated at Akal village. It is all set to get a makeover and add a new dimension to the state tourism. The Rajasthan government has earmarked Rs 10.9 crore to turn it into an international geographical heritage tourist spot. It has been proposed to spend around Rs five crore for modernising the park. A detailed project report has been submitted to the government by the forest department.

Deputy Conservator of Forest Anoop K R told DH, "Our aim is to conserve the fossils and for that we will now use modern technologies. We are also planning to give the park a look of international geotourism park and attract more national and foreign tourists. Detailed information about the hills, rocks and fossils will be placed alongside.”

Apart from shaping it as geotourism destination, the department is also encouraging new researchers to work on it, since the park is linked with discovery of deep sea and rivers' evidence. Besides fossils of some 180 million-year-old flying dinosaurs, other ancient objects are found across the Jaisalmer district. If these spots, from geological point of view, are identified and conserved, then every year, thousands of domestic and foreign scientists and researchers will come to study them.

Noted paleontologist Dhirendra Kumar Pandey, professor at Manipal Centre of Natural Sciences in Karnataka, believes that if the government and the district administration conserve these places a large number of geological experts from Indian and abroad will be visiting the park.

Pandey, who retired from Rajasthan University, told DH, "The fossils in the park are suggestive that Jaisalmer was a sea once upon a time. Most of the stems found are Gymnosperms (non flowering plants). The sediment and deposits found there, are fluviatile, (those deposited in a river). Fossils in the shape of shells clearly hint that once a sea is now a desert.”

Similar views were expressed by Ayodhya Prasad Gaur, President of Geology Alumini Association at JNV University in Jodhpur. He said, "The department should attract visitors by having 3D technology laser shows on dinosaurs. Also the museum should be made more attractive with better look,” Gaur said.

The forest department is trying hard to popularise the park as one of the "must visit locations” of Rajasthan. Dr G V Reddy, Chief Wildlife Warden, Rajasthan, believes that the park has the potential to attract tourists like Ranthambore and Sariska wild reserves.

"Tourists should visit this park to know that the desert state is beyond forts and dunes and has a lot to offer. This place is a mystery in itself. Fossils present here suggest that Jaisalmer was once a tropical region. And the discovery of sea shells has amused researchers all over the world. The park is more than a tourist spot,” he added.