BENGALURU: With a string of holidays, hordes of tourists are thronging Bandipur and Nagarhole tiger reserves near Mysuru and the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary near Bengaluru. With most visitors being unaware of rules to be followed when visiting such places, both the habitat and the wildlife have been adversely affected. Despite induction of more staff at the ground level and activists keeping a vigil of the protected areas during the holiday season, forest officials say it is very difficult to control the unruly crowds, especially youths who trespass and enter prohibited areas and disturb wildlife.
A visit to Bandipur reveals heavy tourist traffic, stationary vehicles at many places, continuous honking and dumping of packets with half eaten food, plastic bags, glass bottles, popcorn, etc.
Many monkeys, deer, peacocks and other species are seen eating from these food packets. Activists say animals have become addicted to processed food items and have not only lost their natural hunting instincts but also their health.G Veeresh, a wildlife activist said, “During Dasara or any holiday season, in both Nagarhole and Bandipur, violations are very common and one can find tourists taking photos from very close quarters and feeding wild animals.”
“The safari vehicles of Jungle Lodges and Resorts sometimes get very close to tigers, elephants and other animals. Recently, in Kabini, three tiger cubs were sighted on Bavali Road. The vehicles took photographers and other tourists very close to them. All this should stop as people are visiting animals in their territories, their homes and one should respect their privacy and rights,”added Veeresh. In the wake of continuing violations, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has called for strict implementation of its guidelines in tiger range states as time and again, rules have been flouted. As per NTCA, the 10 most visited tiger reserves in the country receive nearly two lakh visitors per year on an average.
Karnataka, which has five tiger reserves, attracts the highest number of tourists, especially to Bandipur and Nagarhole. However, many incidents of violation have occurred where tourists have either gone very close to animals for a selfie or a close-up shot of a carnivore or sometimes asked their guides to take the vehicles extremely close to a tiger or an elephant, resulting in injuries and conflict situation. NTCA has directed Karnataka, which has the highest number of tigers in the country and attracts high tourist footfalls, to follow the Normative Standards for tourism activities and Project Tiger guidelines, 2012.