Mysuru: The Forest Department’s move to hike the safari and camera fee at Bandipur and Nagarahole Tiger Reserves has drawn flak from wildlife-lovers who termed the increase as fleecing by the Department.
“Safaris now can be accessed only by the rich and professional cameramen who can afford the fee but an opportunity to common man to enjoy wildlife in their natural habitat has been denied,” they said, taking to social media to vent their ire.
The new hike has come into effect from Apr. 1 and is applicable at all National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and Tiger Reserves. But entry tickets and camera fee vary from one National Park to another. The rent for accommodation too has been revised by Rs. 500 per cottage.
The entry fee and safari for Nagarahole Tiger Reserve from Antharasanthe, Nanachi Gate and Kabini Backwaters has been revised from Rs. 250 to Rs. 300 for Indians while children below 12 years and students will pay Rs. 150. The rate has been lowered from Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 500 for foreigners. This apart, individuals have to pay Rs. 300 for a 90-minute safari in the Department bus and children below 12 years of age and students will have to pay Rs. 150. Students have to possess ID cards and permission letter from the head of the institution. The safari fee for foreigners has been fixed at Rs. 500.
A steep hike: For safari-goers in vehicles owned by Jungle Lodges and Resorts at Nagarahole will cost between Rs. 2,000 and Rs. 3,500 depending on the category of vehicles.
The fee for cameras with interchangeable lenses has been hiked from Rs. 200 to Rs. 250 per unit and this is per trip. For lenses with a zoom ranging from 70 mm to 200 mm, an additional Rs. 750 has to be paid per unit per trip while for use of lens beyond 500 mm, the fee is Rs. 1,500 per unit per trip.
At Bandipur Tiger Reserve, an entry fee of Rs. 300 per person has been fixed and a safari in the Department vehicle for 90 minutes will cost an additional Rs. 300. A safari in the Department jeep will cost Rs. 3,500 per vehicle for Indians and Rs. 5,000 per vehicle for foreigners. A safari in 9-seater vehicle will cost Rs. 5,000 for Indians and Rs. 7,000 for foreigners.
Here too, the camera fee has been increased and a camera with interchangeable lens with a zoom range of 70 mm to 200 mm will cost Rs. 150 per trip and use of lens above 200 mm will cost Rs. 750 per trip. In addition, there is a separate slab under ‘Professional Photography Charges’ for use of cameras above 200 mm lens and video or handy-cam which will cost Rs. 1,500 per trip.
Officers justify hike
Justifying the increase in safari, entry and camera fee, Bandipur Project Tiger Director S.R. Natesha said that the new rates have been implemented four years ago. “Rising fuel costs, salaries of employees, employment of daily wage workers for conservation efforts have contributed to the costs and we have got orders from the higher authorities,” he said.
Nagarahole Project Tiger Director Mahesh Kumar said that there has been an increase in the number of commercial photographers frequenting the Tiger Reserves and as such, it is necessary to regulate it with a fee hike.
While Forest Officials have defended the decision saying it will restrict footfall, safari-lovers say that the Department was reaping profits in the name of safaris and a common man cannot afford it.