Safari will come under buffer zone, not inside core area: Forest Department
Kushalnagar: To ease pressure on the existing wildlife safaris at Nagarahole National Park or Nagarahole Tiger Reserve (NTR) and to cash in on the tourist flow to Kodagu, especially during weekends and holidays, the authorities at Nagarahole are setting up two more safari points in the buffer zone area of the NTR.
The ground-breaking ceremony was recently performed at the safari points, one at Thithimathi in Kodagu district on the Hunsur-Gonikoppa-Thalaserry route (near the roadside forest nursery after Anechowkur Gate) and the second one at Muthur village (Hunsur wildlife range) that leads to Maldare-Siddapura in Kodagu (near the Forest Inspection Bungalow). This comes under Periyapatana taluk of Mysuru district.
The NTR already has three safari points and with an addition of two, the total safari points will be five. The present safari points are at Veeranahosahalli at NTR’s entry point, at Nanachhi Gate near Kutta and at Dammanakatte in Kakanakote forest.
Jeep safari first
Anechowkur Range Forest Officer (RFO) Ganaraj told SOM that the safari points will be ready by November-December this year and there will be both morning and evening safaris. Safari is conducted at NTR twice daily, from 6 am to 8 am and 3 pm to 5 pm. The new safari points too will follow the same timings.
“The main attraction of Dammanakatte Safari is the boating facility in Kabini backwaters and there is a huge demand here due to the frequent sightings of tigers and the black leopard. We will bring both bus and jeep safari to the new safari counters. To start with, we will have jeep safaris,” said the Forest Officer.
The safari points have been designed in such a way that safari-goers from Anechowkur point will reach Muthur at one end and visitors from Muthur point will reach the Anechowkur point at the opposite end, Ganaraj explained.
It will be a seven-kilometre safari that will be covered in under 1 hour and 25 minutes. “The safari map has been readied and has to be finalised by the higher authorities. From Anechowkur, the safari will proceed towards the Ambikere range Majjigehalla Haadi and the anti-poaching camp,” he added.
The buffer zone is a popular point for elephants and some other common animals; tigers and leopards will be a rare sighting. Sources said that additional safari points are being established to tap the tourist potential of Kodagu.
“After Mysuru, till Bylakuppe (Golden Temple) there are no places of tourist interest. If there is a safari point after Hunsur, then we can divert some tourists here. Also, we can pull tourists who are headed towards Kerala, via Gonikoppa,” a Department source said.
Conservation activists object move
But the setting up of two safari points with the sole intention of attracting tourists headed to Kodagu and Kerala as a stopover has come in for intense criticism from wildlife and conservation activists who have raised objections citing excessive commercialisation in the core area of the forests at the cost of disturbing animals.
But the Forest Department officials are dismissing the threat as the two new safaris will be well within the buffer zone and not inside the core area of the NTR. Also, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the Chief Wildlife Warden have approved the setting up of new safari points, they added.
“The idea is to introduce tourists to forests and their topography to spread the conservation message. Also it helps in increase in vegetation through awareness and promotes research,” said another officer. Buffer zones are not usually known for wildlife sightings. Will a tourist shell out money for a buffer zone safari without any sightings or just sightings of elephants and deer is a big question here.