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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Game's up on tiger-spotting racket

Anil Kumar M, TNN | Oct 25, 2012, 04.21AM IST BANGALORE: The recent Supreme Court order is not the only reason the government needs to ban commercial resorts near the forests. While tiger sighting in the wild is a matter of luck, state forest guards seem to be colluding with private resorts to make it easy. The forest department recently unearthed a racket that some resorts in an understanding with forest guards ensure their guests get to see a tiger in the wild, particularly in the Bandipur and Nagarahole ranges. Sources in the forest department told TOI that though tourists are allowed to go on a safari only in vehicles provided by the forest department and Jungle Lodges and Resorts, tourists from private resorts are taken around in a particular vehicle. "Guards manning core areas alert the vehicle driver through his mobile or wireless set that tigers with their cubs can be spotted in a particular region. Accordingly, the driver takes the guests and ensures they get to see a tiger. Guards get monetary and other favours from resorts." He added, "Feedback from tourists is displayed by resorts on their websites or display board, stating that tiger and cubs were spotted." The official added that tourists and wildlife enthusiasts are often not aware that the tiger spotting was stage-managed. Forest minister CP Yogeshwar said he came across such a racket recently. "Some resorts run by influential people, including an influential family of Mysore, are reportedly involved in such a racket. I've suspended a few guards and directed department officials to take measures to end this," he said. He said the SC's October 16 order will be strictly adhered to. It has directed all states to prepare a tiger conservation plan within six months keeping in mind the National Tiger Conservation Authority guidelines and submit it to the Centre for approval. "We've decided to stop all permanent tourist facilities located in the core area of reserve forests. A plan is also being worked out to allow only a limited number of tourists per day to tiger safaris," Yogeshwar said. As per the latest tiger census, Karnataka, with 300, accounts for the highest number of tigers. Of the 41 tiger reserves in the country, Karnataka tops the list with five ― Bandipur, Nagarahole, Biligiri Ranganathaswamy, Dandeli-Anshi and Bhadra.

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