The outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), which has claimed hundreds of domestic animals, is impacting wildlife tourism too.
The arrival of tourists to Kottur forest area in the district has been hit owing to the spread of the disease, wildlife officials say. “There has been a 10-5 per cent decline in the arrival of tourists to Kottur,” Thiruvananthapuram wildlife warden D Ratheesh told Express.
The Department of Forest and Wildlife had banned the elephant safari at Kottur last week to prevent the spread of the disease which also contributed to the decrease in the number of tourists.
“The package for tourists often includes the safari. Excluding it may not be attractive to them while turning up at Kottur,” said Agasthyvanam Biological Park deputy warden Sivaprasad R.
“This may be the first time that the elephant safari is being banned owing to a disease,” he added. Around 20,000 tourists visit the area a year, the majority during seasons like Onam and Christmas.
Elephants, till the recent outbreak in August, were considered safe from the foot-and-mouth disease. But the elephant lovers and the Wildlife Department panicked after two captive elephants at Thrissur were infected by FMD.
The Department is now taking stern measures to prevent the spread of the disease after a circular regarding the same was issued by the Chief Wildlife Warden a couple of days ago.
The visitors to Kottur are allowed to enter only after dipping their feet in sodium carbonate (washing soda) liquid.
The wheels of the tourist vehicles are also cleaned before entering the area. “Though human beings are not affected by FMD, they could be carriers of it,” said the officials.
Visitors to Peppara and Neyyar wildlife sanctuaries, though not banned, are also restricted.
“The movement of the visitors is restricted in such a way that they are prevented from coming near the animals,” said Ratheesh.
Vaccination in Forest Too
The Animal Husbandry Department has already commenced vaccination in the wildlife areas across the state as a preventive measure against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) .
“The vaccination is being carried out with the help of the local people, most of whom are tribals, in association with the Forest and Wildlife Department. It is a task which cannot be carried out without the help of the local people,” Goraksha project coordinator (animal disease control) of Animal Husbandry Department J Chandramohan told ‘Express’.
The Forest Department is providing manpower and vehicles for the task, which commenced in August immediately after the outbreak of FMD.
At present the vaccination is being done in the leftovers ie, the animals which were not covered in the earlier stage and in the animals wandering on the border areas. The cattle routes from Tamil Nadu are also being vaccinated.
FMD has affected a total of heads of 15,000 cattle in the state and 1,500 among them are fatally infected.