Karnataka to shut forest resorts to protect wildlife

Karnataka on Monday decided to shut down all private resorts and state-run guest houses located inside reserved forests across the state to protect wildlife in the aftermath of the Supreme Court guidelines on tiger safaris recently.

"We will order closure of all private resorts and our guest houses built in wildlife sanctuaries to protect animals and preserve reserved forests from harmful acts," state Forest Minister C.P. Yogeeshwara told reporters here after a departmental meeting.

Keeping in view the apex court guidelines to preserve tiger reserves across the country, the state forest department will build new guest houses outside forests to provide accommodation on first-cum-first basis to officials, their guests and wildlife enthusiasts.

The government guest houses within the reserved areas will, however, be used to conduct wildlife studies and research activity.

The top court Oct 16 issued the guidelines while lifting its three-month ban on tiger safaris in the country.

"We will soon serve notices on owners of all private resorts to close their operations to prevent any harmful effect on wildlife," Yogeeshwara said.

The department will, however, allow private resorts to come up outside the reserved forest areas on case-by-case and in accordance with the recent guidelines to meet the huge demand from tourists across the country and overseas, he added.

With the country's largest tiger habitat (with over 300 animals) in the state's Bandipur and Nagarahole national parks bordering Tamil Nadu, the reserved forests have witnessed a mushrooming growth of private lodges and government guest houses over the years in their core and peripheral areas.

"The decision to shut resorts is in line with the apex court order, which directs the state to preserve the buffer zone of tiger reserves and elephant corridors in Bandipur and Nagarhole parks," Yogeeshwara said.

The state-run Jungle Lodges and Resorts will, however, will be allowed to operate its lodges and resorts in the forest areas as they are built outside the tiger buffer zones and elephant corridors but will be asked to scale down its tourist activities like safaris.

"Our aim is to conserve and preserve forests and protect wildlife and not conduct tourist activity," Yogeeshwara clarified.

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