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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Tiger Tamasha at Kanha

The decision to limit entry of vehicles into the Bengal tiger reserves is the best thing that has ever happened to the ecosystems. Eco-tourism is good for tigers and Indian wildlife. But during the rush hour, things can go hay wire and the shy wildlife suffers.
My visit during the peak holiday season in December at Kanha tiger reserve was a disheartening event. I was pained to witness the rush of vehicles into the sensitive Eco-system. Tiger Reserves like Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench are becoming increasingly popular, thanks to the tiger sighting, which is the highest in India.
I was part of the milieu of more than hundred and fifty jeeps lined up to invade the reserve in a mad rush to see the elusive tiger. Of the nine hundred and fifty square kilometers of the park’s core zone barely twenty five percent of the area constitutes active the tourism zone. When you have one vehicle after another chasing the park animals they suffer the brunt - it is a distressing sight.
There is no effort on educating and enlightening the visitors about various life forms that habit the park. Apart from knowing the intricate structure of road networks in National Park the forest guides accompanying, the tourists on tiger safari know very little. There have been no efforts to educate the guides on wildlife. They could help disseminate interesting aspect of the park’s animals and birds. This could aid in diverting the visitor’s attention from the tiger, since the attention of the visitors is focused on only one animal.

The whole system of tiger safari is geared to deliver the tiger sight this is quite palpable on one short visit. It is the most humiliating aspect for the naturalist who is supposed to deliver a quick tiger sight because of his expertise. No one on earth can guarantee a tiger sight since the animal is so elusive and unpredictable. One can only assume his ways after years of experience and close in.

The naturalist job is to disseminate basic information about the animals and birds on animal morphology, breeding behavior, habits etc. An amateur naturalist can deliver well. The park guides take a potluck at the prime tiger habitats and the jeeps are driven at reckless speed very often. This in turn results in extreme pressure on ideal tiger habitats like the grassy meadows and water holes. The tigress with cubs bears the brunt the most, since the female tigers are limited to a smaller area by the constraints of upbringing the tiger cubs.

In undisturbed tiger habitats the frequency of wild animal sightings increases and hence delivers a more holistic picture of the amazing wilderness that these preserves harbor. Controlling the vehicle excursion in the parks is going long way in preserving wildlife and ecosystem there in. The tourist will have a satisfying and fulfilling trip and some may turn into conservationist, which is the prime purpose of the whole exercise.

Tiger tourism in India helps in fetching employment to the locals generates crucial finance for the upkeep of the parks. Tourism increases awareness on the importance of nature conservation among the Eco-tourists.
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