To win more tourist attention for the Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary, the Forest Department is planning better amenities for visitors to the picturesque forests.

The sanctuary, home to more than 180 species of birds, 148 species of butterflies, 52 varieties of fish, 38 types of amphibians and 32 types of reptiles, is an ecotourism dream. The frog Philatus oschlandrae is reportedly seen only in its environs. But with no promotional campaigns, the 74-sq.km sanctuary, declared open in August 2010, has failed to draw the attention of tourists.

Now a new office will come up to coordinate conservation and tourism initiatives in the sanctuary.

“The tender process for the office building will begin within a couple of months, and the department will spend Rs.13 lakh on the work,’ Divisional Forest Officer R. Adalarasan says.

The money will be taken from the Rs. 50 lakh recently allotted to the department from State and central funds to look into possible development initiatives in the sanctuary. The remaining Rs.37 lakh will be mainly utilised for the conservation work and initiatives to reduce the man-animal conflict. Setting up solar-powered fencing and digging trenches to keep away wild elephants from human habitations and development of a better wireless communication network for the forest staff will be among the works.

Tourists will be provided lodging in due course. A better information centre will come up.

“With the realisation of the already planned projects, we may be able to draw more tourists to the site. Also, the department will be able to undertake more promotional campaigns to project the features of the ecotourism site,” Mr. Adalarasan says.

The funds sanctioned for the current financial year will be sufficient to begin some of the major activities without much delay, he adds.

During the past three years, the sanctuary has gone without the expected tourist inflow and development initiatives. A few nature camps were held for students to showcase its importance.