Tourism packages to be integrated with conservation efforts

The Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) is preparing a 10-year conservation plan that focusses on conservation of wildlife and ecology and sustained growth of ecotourism in support of the local tribal community.

The draft of the project, Tiger Conservation Plan (TCP), has been prepared by the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI), Peechi, in association with the Periyar Foundation.

A three-day seminar of senior forest officials and conservation experts held at Thekkady in September had drawn up the framework for the plan, before the preparation of the draft. Senior officials of the PTR are now conducting field studies to make modifications in the plan before submitting it to the Tiger Conservation Authority under the Union government for implementation.

The PTR became an internationally acclaimed reserve for tiger after the Project Tiger was implemented. Sustained conservation efforts have been launched here with the participation of local communities under an ecotourism development plan.

Sanjayan Kumar, Deputy Director, PTR, told The Hindu on Friday that it is a long-term conservation plan and field studies are being conducted to take local factors into account. Local tribespeople will be included in the eco-tourism plan under the TCP to reduce their dependence on the forest. At present, tribespeople work as watchers and guides for various tourism packages of the PTR.

Mr. Sanjayan Kumar said that some of the tourism packages, though exclusive to the PTR, are less attractive and the draft focusses on their modification to make them attractive. The draft demarcates the PTR area where further protection is needed and focusses on local participation in conservation efforts and ecological upgradation. The draft has detailed action plans for veterinary care, nature protection, habitat management, conservation of water sources and wildlife protection.

Mr. Sanjayan Kumar said that eco-development would be clubbed to tourism packages to strengthen public participation in conservation efforts.

Wildlife protection and forest preservation became a success in the PTR after those people who had once connived with smugglers and anti-social elements were included in the task of protecting the forest wealth and wildlife after absorbing them as forest watchers. This ensured a regular source of income for them.