Tigers, tourism can’t co-exist: SC

The Supreme Court has made it clear: tigers and tourism cannot co-exist. In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court on Monday banned all kinds of tourism activities across the 40 tiger reserves in the country. The order clearly stated that wildlife safaris, elephant rides, trekking and building of nature camps in the core areas of tiger reserves have to be banned. The order means all the five properties of Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) located in the five tiger reserves of the State - Bandipur, Nagarhole, Dandeli, Bhadra and BRT Tiger Reserve - have to be shut down.

Karnataka was one of the first tiger states in the country to notify the Core Critical Tiger Zone a few years ago under Section 38 V of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. A senior forest officer told Deccan Chronicle that under the Core Area notification, the present tourism zones in Nagarhole and Sunkadkatte are within the core area. The JLR properties in K. Gudi on B.R. Hills, in Bhadra Tiger Reserve, Dandeli, and the safari area in Bandipur fall inside the core area of the respective tiger reserves.

Tiger tourism in Karnataka is regulated through vehicles of the state-owned JLR. Guests visiting private resorts around the tiger reserve are taken inside the forest in JLR vehicles. “But since the Supreme Court order has stated no tourism activity, the safaris will also have to be shut down,” said the forest officer.

Supreme Court advocate Mr Ritwik Dutta said that it was a positive judgment. “It’s a wake-up call for the tourism industry. It’s not just about the legal compliance, it’s also a question of equity. On one hand you evacuate tribals and farmers living in the forest and on the other hand you bring in noisy tourists who surround a tiger to take photos,” he pointed out.

Mr Anur Reddy, managing director of JLR said: “We will wait until the order copy is received. But personally I feel regulated tourism is required in the wildlife areas to generate interest about conserving wildlife.”

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