Court orders with regard to tourism in ecologically sensitive areas ignored

Even as a formal requisition is awaited for performing autopsy on the body of a British tourist killed by an elephant at Singara near here on Thursday, a question doing the rounds in various circles here is: was it an avoidable tragedy?

Colin Manvell (69), a retired geography teacher and wildlife enthusiast, had gone to Achakarai in Singara, which was a natural corridor for wild animals. Local guide Kumar and Romi from Kerala had accompanied him. Stating that the purpose was to take photographs of birds, official sources told The Hindu here on Saturday that when a lone elephant was spotted nearby, the guides had raised an alarm and escaped but the tourist had tried to get good shot of the pachyderm. It had attacked him and left the area immediately.

He had succumbed to injuries before the guides could take him to the hospital. Following a request made by the police on behalf of the British High Commission, the body has been kept in a freezer in the mortuary of the Government Hospital in Gudalur. Security has been provided.

The Superintendent of Police T. Senthilkumar said that forest officials have booked a case against Kumar for taking the tourist into a prohibited area.

The victim has been coming to the area for the past 15 years. He was staying alone in a private house at Masinagudy near Singara. Lamenting that eco and wildlife tourism policies lack specific dos and don’ts, naturalists feel that there are no clear-cut directions vis-à-vis tourism in the natural corridors. Since warning signs are also conspicuous by their absence in the forests, tourists, particularly foreigners, are easily misled by self-styled guides.

While about 100 resorts are functioning in the area, about 80 are inside the elephant corridor.

In addition, many houses with two or three rooms throw their doors open to tourists.

None of them are authorised.

S. Jayachandran, Joint Secretary, Tamil Nadu Green Movement (TNGM), regretted that though it was common knowledge that illegal tourism was flourishing in the region officials concerned are indifferent.

He alleged that the orders of the court with regard to tourism in such ecologically sensitive areas were being ignored.

Unless violators of wild life and forest rules are dealt with stringently such exploitation of wild animals cannot be checked, he said.

Short-lived

In August 2009, a French tourist Del Yotel Annie was killed by an elephant in the same area. It had triggered a strong demand for regulating ecotourism in wildlife habitats. However, the restrictions put in place were short-lived. Consequently, guides started thriving again. Meanwhile, a tribal employee of the forest department said that whenever there was a threat of a wild animal attack, domestic tourists run to safe places. However foreigners either stand where they are or take a long time to react. This aspect is ignored by guides accompanying foreigners.