On holidays and weekends, the Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) witnesses a serpentine queue of tourists buying tickets to experience the safari and seeing exotic lions and tigers from a close angle.
Sighting lions and tigers in the wild is like hitting the jackpot. Since the safaris in national parks and sanctuaries are organised only in the buffer zone, sighting of these endangered species is very rare. To enable people to see the wild animals inside the park, the BBP authorities started the Lions Safari and Tiger Safari in the early 80s. In Karnataka, the safaris are found only in two places. One is in BBP and another in Tyavarekoppa Zoo in Shimoga. Among these two places, BBP records more number of footfalls than the Shimoga Zoo because of high tourist flow to Bangalore. Another advantage is that the BBP is around 23 km from the city and Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) plies air-conditioned and non-air conditioned buses from different parts of the city.
R Raju, executive director of BBP told City Express that on an average around 1,000 to 2,000 people enjoy the safaris on weekdays. The number touches 5,000 to 6,000 on public holidays and weekends. “Considering the rush of tourists for the safari, we have added three more vehicles, viz., two mini-buses and a jeep to the existing fleet of vehicles. Even those vehicles are not sufficient on holidays,” he states.
As for safety measures, Raju says that the windows of the vehicles are covered with the iron mesh and only a small gap is provided for the tourists to take pictures. “A forest guard is deputed for each vehicle as a precautionary measure. The protection for vehicles has been increased after a two-year-old baby girl was whisked away by a lion in 1995-96. No tourist is allowed to get down from the vehicle inside the safari,” he said.
“There are 32 lions in the safari. All of them are left free inside the safari area in the morning and locked inside the enclosure in the evening. Even if you go to Gir forest, you cannot see the lions from such a close as you see in Bannerghatta. Elders and children will be awestruck to see the lions from a very short distance,” he added.
The ED also stated that the decks for setting up of the leopard safari are almost cleared and it will come up near the Bear Rescue Centre. The BBP has already prepared a blue print and it is likely to be finalised in the governing council meeting. Once it is established, BBP will become the first one to have a leopard safari in India, he said.