State’s oldest national park has decided to increase its area into the buffer zone to ensure tourists get their fill of the big cat
With tiger tourism becoming widely popular across the country, sanctuaries with better tiger sightings have become preferred destinations for tourists. To ensure enthusiasts get their money’s worth, the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) has increased their area to the buffer zone as well.
Accordingly, a new 18-km route from Navegaon Gate at TATR to Jogamoga Kuti is set to start this December. “The core area can hold only a limited number of people. Bookings are done online and people often miss out if we are full. This will also enable us to increase the number of seats without causing additional pressure on the forest and will also help to create job opportunities for villagers. Training sessions for the guides are currently in progress,” said Rahul Sorte, assistant conservator of forests in TATR Buffer.
For the increased area, the routes and firelines for the safari will be the same as were earlier used by villagers. This way, there will be no disturbance to the existing forests. Sorte added that some other routes have been added to the buffer as well.
TATR, the state’s oldest and largest national park, measures 1,727 sq km and was created in 1955. The park had around 43 tigers, according to the 2010 census, which has now increased to 60. Of these, 30 are in the core area and 30 in the buffer area.
“There were villages in the buffer area which have been subsequently relocated. After this, the areas have developed very well and are comparatively unexplored now. The tigers here are shy unlike those in the core area. Moreover, increasing the area will also mean that people don’t have to chase after a single tiger. The buffer area is also scenic, with several natural water sources where tigers come to drink,” said Anuj Khare, a city-based environmentalist who frequents the area.
Pooja Bhale, a conservation biologist from the city, said, “All the guides will be from the surrounding villages so there will be employment opportunities aplenty for the youth. This will also bring down migration.”
Anirudh Chaoji, director of Ecologics, an organisation working for conservation said that for animals, there are no boundaries and sightings may actually be better in buffer regions. “We have also helped the forest department to develop a nature trail in the buffer. Back in 2012, the Supreme Court had ruled that pressure on core areas should be reduced and only 20 per cent used. Maharashtra is the first state to start promoting tourism in these areas.”