Renting of camera, lens up, but Forest dept not happy

Renting of camera, lens up, but Forest dept not happy

The forest department is worried that more tourists equipped with cameras coming to safaris may be a setback to conservation efforts. dh file photo

The opening of stores renting out cameras and lenses on the fringes of forests has met the increasing demand from people, but has put the forest department on guard.

This has led to a spurt in photography safari, claims the department, and it is coming up with novel ideas to keep a check on the tourists and their vehicles.

Lensowl, one such store in Karapura, a km away from Kabini’s Jungle Lodges and Resorts, is serving the needs of tourists visiting resorts in Kabini. The store was opened on January 1 and since then, it has rented out camera and other equipment to over 60 tourists bound for the safari.

Giri Cavale, noted wildlife photographer and co-founder of Lensowl, said this was their second store in Karnataka, the first being in Bengaluru. “We chose Kabini as many visit the forest to photograph wildlife. They will no longer have to rent equipment from Bengaluru and carry it all the way. Need-based renting is addressed. We are next planning to open a store in Ranthambore, another most-sort-after place to capture pictures of tigers,” Cavale said.

He said, “this will not affect the number of tourists as safari vehicles are already limited. In fact, it will help those keen on photography, but do not have a camera.”

However, the department is worried about other threats. It claims the renting stores are attracting people to photography safari, which is a threat to conservation and needs to be regulated. To reduce the number of people carrying cameras with them, the department imposed a fee on camera lenses in 2017. Lenses up to 200mm are charged Rs 400 and those above 200mm are charged Rs 1,000.

“Despite this, we have noticed an increase in the number of people carrying cameras and the waiting period of safari vehicles. As a solution, we are working on introducing GPS-based trackers in safari vehicles. Software is being tested and approvals are being sought. It will be first introduced in Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, including Kabini, and then elsewhere. GPS coordinates of drivers and naturalists will also be tracked on real-time basis,” said a senior forest department official.

The department operates only two buses, while JLR runs 15 jeeps on any given day. Kabini JLR manager Gangaswamy said the department had not tied up with any organisation for renting out cameras. But guests have been renting them in large numbers, he added.