Karnataka teaches backpackers to respect wildlife

May 17th, 2009 - 11:15 am ICT by IANS  

By Maitreyee Boruah
Bangalore, May 17 (IANS) Mohit Kumar, 32, a bank employee in Bangalore, has always dreamt of sighting the majestic tiger from close quarters.

So, this summer break when Kumar came to know about a summer visitor/safari awareness programme at the Nagarhole National Park situated 220 km from Bangalore, he jumped at the opportunity.

After the tour, covering around 30 km of the national park, Kumar was initially disappointed, as the tigers remained elusive. But he is happy that the safari helped him in breaking several myths associated with wildlife. He has become more considerate towards animals and birds.

“While going to Nagarhole, I had only one thing in mind, just to sight a tiger. But I forgot that animals by nature are reclusive and prefer to be left alone. It is better not to disturb them in order to get near to them or click their pictures,” Kumar told IANS.

Echoing Kumar is Hari Somashekar, founder-member and director of publicity and awareness in Kenneth Anderson Nature Society (KANS), the organiser of the awareness trip.

The very idea of the safari was to enlighten the visitors about vital behaviour and characteristics of flora and fauna, said Somashekhar.

“The programme is mainly aimed at increasing awareness amongst visitors of the protocols to be followed in National Parks and sensitise them on the importance of wildlife conservation,” he said.

The awareness programme was organised in coordination with the Karnataka Forest Department and the Wildlife Conservation Society (India).

The programme started on March 15 and has till date attracted around 1,000 participants. Somashekar and Naren Damodaran from KANS, along with Sanjay Gubbi from WCS, conceptualised the programme which will run through this month.

On an average 13 safari buses with around 390 visitors on each weekend had made trips to Nagarhole.

Before the start of the journey, volunteers brief the tourists on the rules of the programme.

“The same volunteer will travel with visitors in safari buses, make sure they are adhering to rules and helping them to understand and educate about less-known mammals found in the park. Pamphlets are distributed among the travellers. Volunteers also help the travellers to site lesser known mammals and species,” said Vasant Kumar, one of the 10 volunteers who are part of the awareness drive.

No fee is charged from the participants for the 30-km safari trip for which the state forest department provides buses.

The reaction of participants in the programme has been mixed.

“I must admit it’s not the same reaction we get all the time. People who are interested and share some passion towards wildlife will easily be enlightened and will be happy to know more about our work. But most of the people are not bothered about wildlife or the need of the hour to conserve and protect it,” said Somashekhar.

“They make all kinds of talks and jokes inside the bus. Some of them even go back to the reception and ask for refund of safari tickets. I guess that’s where our programme plays a vital role in educating people about all aspects of a wildlife sanctuary and make them aware and to appreciate the forest and its species at large,” said Vasant.

Some of the flora and fauna attractions of Nagarhole include teak, rosewood, bamboo, sandal, tigers, panthers, sambars, leopards, chitals, sloth bear, and golden jackal to name a few.

“Coming to Nagarhole has been a learning experience for me. So what if I didn’t sight a tiger. Sighting wildlife in protected areas is all luck. But I am going back taking a good amount of education about lives and habitats of wildlife,” said Seema Ghosh, a marketing professional from Delhi, who took part in the safari programme recently.

Sharing almost same ecological features, the Nagarhole and Bandipur reserve forests together cover about 1,500 sq km of which 500 sq km had been demarcated as the “Wilderness Zone” in Karnataka.

The Nagarhole national park is situated at a point connecting Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and thus forms a premier forest of southern India. Bandipur is one of the first few forests to be designated as a tiger reserve under project tiger.

(Maitreyee Boruah can be contacted at m.boruah@ians.in)

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