Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tourists return to Indian tiger reserve

Jaipur, Dec 26 (IANS) Tourists and wildlife enthusiasts are back at the Ranthambore National Park, one of India's premier tiger reserves, after a court temporarily lifted a ban on the entry of private vehicles.

Tourist activities in Ranthambore, over 170 km from here, came to a standstill after a single bench of the Rajasthan High Court imposed restrictions on vehicles Dec 8.

As neither park authorities nor the tourism department operate vehicles inside the park and only private operators ply these, no tourist was able to enter the park after the ban.

Hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), a two-judge bench of the court Friday set aside the ban and allowed private vehicles to take tourists inside the park till Jan 16 - the date for the next hearing.

Hundreds of tourists are again thronging the reserve for a glimpse of tigers.

'There has been a heavy rush for the morning and evening visits to the park to catch a glimpse of the wild cats,' said Nandlal Alavada, assistant director, department of tourism.

The heavy rush can be gauged from the fact that 40 vehicles, 21 vans with a capacity to carry 20 people and 19 six-seater jeeps have been pressed into service since Saturday.

And the visitors have not been disappointed. As the mercury dipped in Rajasthan, several wild creatures including tigers were seen resting in the sun.

'I went in Saturday morning and was able to spot a tiger in Zone 2. In the afternoon I saw more tigers,' said Ramesh Gupta, a tourist from Uttar Pradesh.

German Markus said: 'It was so fascinating to see a tigress with two cubs playing around in the open.'

Those associated with the tourism industry around the park are smiling. The 14 days of the ban led to an estimated loss of Rs.60 million.

Tourist operators and hotel owners offered a thanksgiving prasad at the Trinetra Ganesh Temple situated inside the park after the court order.

The Ranthambore park, spread over 392 sq km, is famous for tigers. It is one of India's Project Tiger reserves and home to 36 wild cats including 10 cubs.

The park is also home to the leopard, dhole, monkeys, wild pig, sambar and chital as well as a wide variety of trees, plants, birds and reptiles. Tourists_return_to_Ranthambore_tiger_reserve

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