Visiting any of the tiger reserves in India and returning without spotting a tiger is a matter of hard luck! But, don’t be disappointed as you may be lucky to easily spot one at Jim Corbett National Park on your next visit. Mr. TS Rawat, Chief Minister of Uttarakhand nodded for setting up of tiger safari in the Savalde Eco-Tourism Zone of Dhela. The range lies in the buffer area of the Corbett reserve.
If all goes as per plan, a fenced and semi-natural area will be set up, by next year, where 20-25 tigers will reside. Thus, those who were unlucky to sight a tiger in other ranges of the reserve, could come here and spot them easily.
The project has been approved by both the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Central Zoo Authority. The goal of the project is too ease the pressure from the Dhikala zone and nearby areas like Jhirna, Birjani and Sona Nadi. This will also boost tourism at the Dhela range.
The All India Tiger Census of 2015 indicated 240 Royal Bengal tigers at the Jim Corbett National Park which remains thronged by a number of tourists every year. Nearly 3 lakh tourists have visited Corbett in the last se months and generated a revenue of Rs.8 Crore. Thus, as per NCTA officials, it would be better to divert the traffic than to lose out the revenue. But, the some wildlife experts venhave a different opinion about it.
As per Dr. MK Ranjitsinh, a noted conservationist, he along with some other members of the National Board for Wildlife rejected the idea when it was proposed earlier. He made a statement that setting up such area will overcome the very purpose of wildlife sanctuaries. Tigers should be spotted near towns and cities, if it is the only thing to be done at the wildlife parks.
He believes that the reason for visiting a park is to get one step closer to the nature and to spot other animals as well. He further emphasized his point by saying that for him, the zoo and a safari do not differ.
This point of view is also seconded by a noted biologist with Wildlife Conservation Society, Dr. Ulhas Karnath. According to him, the concept of the safaris of South Africa can’t be blindly followed. Additionally, the cleared his point by bringing out the difference between South African safari reserves and Indian safari reserves. He made a point that Indian safari reserves lack space to implement the model of African reserves where predators kill wild prey. Here, the cost of artificially feeding the tigers would be more.
Karanth believes that this will transform the wildlife reserves into Kumbh Mela and the very idea of doing so should be opposed. A same proposal for setting up a tiger safari at Ranthambore was also shot down by him when he was a member of Project Tiger steering committee. He also made the same statement as that of Mr. Ranjitsinh that people must visit Zoos if they only wish to see the tiger and rush off without marveling at the nature.
However, just like the two sides of the same coin, the idea of tiger safari has some supporters as well. Belinda Wright, a tiger expert and executive director of the Wildlife Society of India braces the concept of tiger safari only if they are located at a distance from the reserves. Also, these safaris should be the dwelling place of the injured, disabled and old tigers and not the healthier ones.
Concerning about the safety of the visitors, Wright further emphasized the setup of properly implemented safari area by the officials.
Wildlife Sanctuaries in India were the efforts initiated to protect these big wild cats from the poaching, population pressure and habitat loss. Thus, there will always be the need of balancing the tourism growth and protecting the wildlife before moving further in any of the ways.