Curtains for safaris in State reserves

The State Forest Department has stopped all tourism activities in the core areas of tiger reserves in the State with effect from Thursday in line with the country-wide ban by the Supreme Court.

Visitors now in the tiger reserves will have to return without a safari, as the State Government recently declared the entire tiger reserves in the State core areas.
“There will be no tourism activities within Bandipur, Nagarhole, Anshi Dandeli, BRT Wildlife Sanctuary and Bhadra Tiger Reserve,” Dipak Sarmah, Principal chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) and Chief Wildlife Warden, told Deccan Herald.
“We have got a copy of the apex court order. We are implementing it right away. I have already instructed all officers,” he added.

The apex court direction preventing tourists from venturing into the core areas will affect all resorts, including the State-owned Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR). P Anur Reddy, JLR Managing Director, said all the operations would be stopped if the forests department implemented it. “If the Forest department says that tourism is banned, we will stop it. We will abide by the apex court orders,” he said.

Following the directions of the PCCF, the authorities at Bandipur and Nagarhole have directed the staff to close down the main gates of the parks and inform the tourists entering the block regarding the cancellation of safari. All tourists in Bandipur, Nagarhole and Bhadra have been told that there will be no safari in the morning.

The ban will be a major setback to the JLR which operates five tiger tourism resorts—Kabini (Nagarhole), Melkamanahalli (Bandipur), K Gudi, (BRT), Lakkavalli, (Bhadra) and Kulagi (Anshi-Dandeli)—which are major tourist attractions.

According to sources, 515 employees were directly appointed by the JLR in these resorts, while residents of nearby villages benefited indirectly by selling milk, meat, vegetables and other necessary produce to the JLR.

Nearly 85,000 tourists visited the tiger reserves in 2011-2012 through the JLR. In 2010-2011, the number of visitors was 75,000. However, the JLR, probably anticipating such an eventuality, had already spread its activities to non-wildlife areas in the State by starting resorts in Bidar, Bellary, Belgaum and coastal areas.
HC order and JLR

Following a High Court order, the state Forest Department had already banned the movement of private vehicles in the Bandipur tiger reserve with effect from September 1, 2011, except those of the JLR. A private resort owner had moved the High Court stating that the State Forest Department was selective in favouring tourism operators.

Several wildlife experts have welcomed the decision of Supreme Court. Tiger biologist Dr K Ullas Karanth welcomed the court’s interim order, but cautioned that “care should be taken to ensure that the non-commercial and educational values of nature tourism and public support to conservation they generate are not lost sight of.”

All tourist residential facilities should be moved out of core habitats and critical corridors at the earliest. “The economic power of tourism should be leveraged to create more habitat outside, not to overload existing tiger habitats, as all too often happens,” he said.

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