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Thursday, August 30, 2012

SC extends ban, but hints at regulated tourism in tiger areas

New Delhi: Extending the ban on tourism in core tiger reserve areas till September 27, the Supreme Court today indicated it was not averse to permit regulated tourist activities, subject to the Centre evolving suitable revised guidelines to protect the depleting wild cat. A bench of justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar granted four weeks to the Centre to evolve the fresh guidelines after consultations with States, all stake-holders, hotel associations affected by the ban, guides and tour operators. On July 24 the apex court had banned all tourism activities in the core tiger reserve areas. "There is always a watch when tourism is allowed. If there is no tourism there will be no humans to watch the tigers. "Poachers will immediately be caught by tourists and the guides. Poachers actually work undercover. If no tourists are allowed, it will be a field day for poachers," the bench told Attorney General GE Vahanvati, who agreed with the observations. The apex court passed the observation after the AG sought permission to revise the existing guidelines to ensure that tigers were protected even while tourism is promoted. During the nearly hour-long hearing the bench asked the Centre whether the existing tiger conservation guidelines envisage a complete ban on all activities inside core areas. The Centre submitted that the rules did not envisage a complete ban, rather provided for 20 per cent activities inside the core areas. "There seems to be some kind of clash, some kind of difference of opinion between centre and the states. Please ensure these are resolved. "Also identify which activities shall be allowed and not allowed inside core areas," the bench observed adding it wanted comprehensive guidelines to promote both growth of tiger population and regulated tourism. The bench asked the AG to ensure regulated tourism as hundreds of vehicles are trooping in an out of the core areas. "It has been a free for all till now. Is it necessary to take 100 vehicles into the core areas," the apex court wondered. Senior counsel Dushyant Dave, appearing for Rajasthan and States like MP, urged the court to immediately lift the ban to ensure that the parks are opened by October 1, 2012. The counsel cited instances of Uganda, Kenya and certain other countries to claim that tourism regenerates wildlife and that there was no justification for the apex court to ban it. Another senior counsel Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the Hotel Association of India, maintained that tourists did not venture into the core areas, but were only taken on guided excursions for a short period of time. He lamented that in view of the ban hotels have had to cancel bookings from foreign countries and the livelihood of several lakh of people was at stake. However, senior counsel Raj Panjwani, appearing for petitioner, Ajay Dubey, submitted that the Centre had failed to evolve a comprehensive plan for the past two decades. The Centre had earlier filed an affidavit seeking permission to review the existing guidelines for conservation of tigers in the wake of the apex court's order banning tourism in core areas of tiger reserves. In its affidavit, the Centre had also contended that the states have expressed concern that many local people depend on tourism for their livelihood and banning tourism in core areas of the tiger reserves would result in loss of such income leading to discontent which may be a threat to wildlife and forests. Under the existing guidelines and rules of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the states have to notify the list of core and buffer areas of tiger reserves in their respective jurisdictions. As per the guidelines, buffer zones are the areas which lie in the periphery of core areas, also known as critical tiger habitats. Tiger breeding takes place in core areas which are meant to be kept free of any disturbance, including tourism. The buffer zones constitute the fringe areas of tiger reserves up to a distance of 10 kms. There are an estimated over 1,700 tigers in the country. PTI

Abandoned weak cub to be shifted to Kanha on Sept 1

TNN | Aug 30, 2012, 05.35AM IST BHOPAL: A cub, which was abandoned by a tigress in the Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR) would be taken to - Kanha Tiger Reserve (KTR) on Saturday, September 1, for its rehabilitation. "The date for shifting the six-month cub has been finalised and it would be taken to KTR in a specially designed vehicle with park veterinarian and a divisional forest officer keeping a watch on it. The striped-animal will be first put in a house for some months, thereafter in an enclosure before releasing it in the wild," PTR field director RS Murthy told TOI. More than three months ago, a tigress, T-1 abandoned the cub in the PTR after which the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) asked the MP forest department to shift it to Van Vihar national park and animal rescue and rehabilitation here. But the forest officials had asked the NTCA that it wants to shift the animal to KTR, which was cleared. T-1 gave birth to the cub along with three other cubs in a cave of PTR on February 16. On March 29, the tigress shifted to another cave some 2 km away from the first one, but didn't carry the weak cub. But, it returned to its previous cave on April 2 and fed this abandoned cub. This time around also, T-1 didn't take the cub with it after which the PTR authorities with electronic gadgets, kept a close watch on it and when its condition deteriorated it was rescued from the cave on April 12 and kept in a well-equipped room in PTR. Felines usually abandon their cubs when they turn weak, according to wildlife experts. All preparations have to be made for keeping the cub in KTR, officials said. Kanha sanctuary employees have mastered the technique of hand-rearing cubs by successfully raising two orphaned tigresses. KTR is having housing and an enclosure in which two orphaned tigresses were reared and later on translocated to PTR to revive big cat population.

Bookings hit at Ranthambore over SC ban

TNN | Aug 30, 2012, 03.03AM IST JAIPUR: It was a day of mixed fortunes for Rajasthan that has been advocating regulated tourism in tiger reserves rather than a complete ban. The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to formulate fresh guidelines for protection of tigers in core and buffer zones, providing room for an alternate route to be considered. However, with the court deciding to continue the ban till the next hearing on September 27, just days before the Ranthambore tiger reserve opens to visitors on October 1, tourism at the park is sure to take a beating. The online booking of Gypsies and canters for a safari at the park by the forest department is yet to begin. "Normally, online bookings start a month or two before the park opens for the season. However, this time with the Supreme Court ban, there is no way we can begin bookings. Else, tourists' money will get stuck," said AC Chaubey, chief wildlife warden, Rajasthan. Till the last season, to get a Gypsy booked for a safari was a matter of luck as bookings are closed within the first week of the season owing to heavy rush of tourists. Requests for cancellation of rooms at hotels too have started pouring in. Balendu Singh, president, Hotel Owners' Association in Ranthambhore said, "October November are major months for us. With festivals lined up, tourists head to Ranthambhore. This is not the case this year. Most people who are travelling on a holiday like to plan their tour well in advance but with the Supreme Court ban there is an uncertainty about visits to the park. The effect can be felt in the number of bookings." With the court fixing the date of hearing in the case so close to the time when the park opens to public, hoteliers said fate of several bookings have been left to the last minute. "First, we had told them (tourists) that by Wednesday the court would come up with a decision, but now with the ban being extended, we will have to intimate them once again through e-mails. We hope that the ban is eventually lifted. Ranthambhore has managed well with regulated tourism since several years and other states can learn from us. Even during peak season, just 40 vehicles are allowed to go inside the park everyday," he adds. On the brighter side, with the Supreme Court in its fresh order asking stakeholders to make their submissions within a week to the committee set up for framing the guidelines for consideration, it is possible that many states, including Rajasthan, that have earlier sent their recommendations to the ministry will now approach the court straight away. Rajasthan that has been leading a crusade of sorts gathering all tigers states in the country under an umbrella so that the total ban is lifted might just decide to represent its case on its own. However, officials refused to comment anything on the matter and said, "It is too early to decide on such things now."