Wild animals face the music at national park

No check on tour operators at Papikonda, say activists

December 01, 2018 12:46 am | Updated 12:46 am IST - MACHILIPATNAM

Unregulated tourism activities have emerged as a major threat for wildlife and avian species, particularly the ‘nearly threatened’ Malabar Pied Hornbill, tiger and leopard, at the Papikonda National Park (PNP).

Despite 1,012 sq.km forest area on both sides of the Godavari river in East and West Godavari districts being declared a national park in 2008, tourism operations are yet to be brought under the watch of the Forest Department.

Wildlife activists are upset over the manner in which tourism activities are being allowed by the Forest Department across the national park. As many as 54 tourist boats owned by private groups are in operation in the Papikonda hill range, offering boat services across the length and breadth of the national park with blaring sound systems and unregulated preparation and sale of ‘chicken prepared in bamboo pipes.’

Leftover food

PNP Forest Range Officer (Rampachodavaram block) T. Sri Sai told The Hindu that 21 boats are in operation from Rajahmundry and 33 are in service from the Pochavaram point near Bhadrachalam. Winter is the peak tourist season.

A wildlife researcher told The Hindu that the sound systems installed in the boats are disturbing wildlife at the national park. Leftover food, particularly chicken, may impact the health of the wildlife as it had happened in the Gir National Park, he added.

“Round the clock operations of the boats are posing a threat to wild animals crossing the river,” observed a wildlife activist.

Admitting the problem, Mr. Sri Sai said notices were served on the boat operators in early November, directing them to obtain permissions from the Forest Department. “We have reports of installation of sound systems in the boats and dumping of food waste,” he added.

In January, the ‘Sign Survey on Tigers’ was undertaken in the park.

‘Guidelines soon’

According to the survey by the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment and the Bombay Natural History Society ( December 2014), five Malabar Pied Hornbills were sighted in two locations at the national park.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Wildlife Warden D. Nalini Mohan told The Hindu that it not possible to keep a vigil on each boat in operation owing to lack of staff in the park. “New guidelines will be issued soon to regulate tourist operations, including use of sound systems,” Mr. Nalini Mohan added.

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