Conservationists worried that this may stifle education- and conservation-related activities

Following the Supreme Court ban, the Department of Forests has stopped all tourism activities in the core areas of tiger reserves in Bandipur, Nagarahole, Anshi-Dandeli, Biligiri Ranganathaswamy Temple (BRT) and Bhadra wildlife ranges.

The department’s order is valid till August 22, when the matter will come up for further hearing in the Supreme Court.

According to Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden Deepak Sarmah, there will be no tourism activity in Bandipur range; Nagarahole, D.B. Kuppe and Antarsante ranges in the Nagarahole National Park; Lakkavalli and Muttodi in the Bhadra range; Punasoli and Kulgi in Anshi-Dandeli range, and K. Gudi in the BRT range.

On Wednesday, orders were sent to all deputy conservators of forests and chief conservators of forest (Wildlife) of the five reserves. But tourism activity will continue in Bheemeshwari, Bannerghatta, Bhagavathi (Kudremukh), Daroji Bear Sanctuary, Dubare, and the blackbuck sanctuary in Bidar as these are not tiger reserves, a forest official said.

Impact on tourism

The closure of these five key wildlife reserves for tourism activities will directly impact the sector. Anshi-Dandeli in Uttara Kannada district, Bandipur National Park, Nagarahole National Park, and Bhadra in Chikmagalur district together accounted for 1,34,293 tourists in 2011. Though this is a fraction of the total number of tourists visiting the State across various categories, the impact of the ban will be most felt by State-owned Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) Ltd. which runs resorts in Nagarahole, Bandipur, K. Gudi, Lakkavalli and Kulgi.

The closure of these tourism hubs will lead to a 50 per cent loss in revenues, Managing Director, JLR, P. Anur Reddy told The Hindu.

He said that 80 per cent of tourist traffic was in tiger reserves, and that 40 safari vehicles had stopped plying from Wednesday morning. JLR was earning Rs. 10 lakh annually from safari in tiger reserves, he added.

Bookings cancelled

B.J. Hosmath, Field Director, Project Tiger, told The Hindu that all bookings for the quarters of the Department of Forests had been cancelled. Mr. Hosmath pointed out that the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had identified the two national parks — together encompassing over 1,500 sq km — as “core critical tiger habitats” and hence the apex court directive had been implemented in both Bandipur and Nagarahole without distinguishing between core zone and buffer zone.

Wildlife and conservation activists have welcomed the order. They, however, are worried that this may stifle education- and conservation-related activities in these ranges. Wildlife biologist K. Ullas Karanth welcomed the move.

He, however, noted that one should not lose sight of non-commercial and educational values of nature tourism and public support they generate for conservation.

In a press release, he added: “Certainly, all tourist residential facilities should be moved out of core habitats and critical corridors at the earliest. The economic power of tourism should be leveraged to create more habitat outside, not to overload existing tiger habitats, as all too often happens.”

Praveen Bhargav, trustee, Wildlife First, Bangalore, said the attempt to crash land an African model of high intensity vehicle-borne tourism into our relatively small reserves had thankfully been stymied by the Supreme Court. However, this must not lead to stopping of education- and conservation-related activities that were very important to secure a future for tigers, he added.

‘No delineation’

Though the Supreme Court ban on tourism is restricted to core areas of tiger reserves, sources told The Hindu there was no delineation of core zone and buffer zone in both Bandipur and Nagarahole and the demarcation of “tourism zone” was done for convenience.