Absence of tigers marred Pench show
24 Dec 2007, 0149 hrs IST,TNN
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NAGPUR: Pench authorities' claim of 33 tigers received a major set back after none were sighted naturally in the high-profile reserve on Saturday while a tiger show was on. Of the 500-odd visitors in 63 vehicles, only 35 parties were somehow lucky to get a glimpse of one tiger in the show at Alikatta, inside the reserve while others had to return disappointed.
Many wildlife lovers and tourists expressed concern over the state of affairs in the high-profile tiger reserve, 100 kms from Nagpur. "At a time when poaching pressures are becoming difficult to handle, overcrowding of parks in MP also puts a question mark over the existence of tigers," said wildlife experts like Robin Sonkar and Abhay Sakhre.
The carrying capacity of the reserve is 60 vehicles - 30 each in morning and noon session. However, on Saturday, over 126 vehicles entered the park in two sessions. Rajnish Kumar Singh, game range officer, Khawasa, admitted that the number of tourists was beyond the park's capacity. Of the 757 sq km tiger reserve, 140 km routes are for tourism.
Following five consecutive government holidays and Christmas vacation, tourists, mostly from Nagpur flocked the park. However, due to mad rush, there was no tiger sighting. A few chances of getting the tiger sighted were marred by a show near Alikatta, where two tigers were spotted by the visitors while riding on an elephant. Out of this, one tiger managed to escape while another was there till the afternoon.
Many tourists have flayed the park management for going out of way to show tigers to tourists for commercial gains. The park charges Rs 100 per person for a tiger show that too after a long wait. "However, in the process, many of us could not see a tiger naturally. The authorities flouted all norms while engaging in a tiger show. The exit time from the park is 11 am, but on Saturday, many tourists stayed inside till 1.30 pm as the show was on," complained a group of college girls who had come a long way from Pune. "How can one see a tiger when there's tremendous pressure on the park and on the tigers too," asked Vinita Goel, a student. "The claim of about 50 tigers seems to be a bluff and the park is trying to create hype by showcasing the only leopard in Piyorthadi and the tigress with her separated cubs near Alikatta," alleged Anant Dorlikar of Aranya, an NGO working for conservation of tigers.
Many visitors accused the private gypsy owners of adopting short-cuts during excursions to save fuel. "Despite paying Rs 1,500 per round, we were not taken on several routes. They tried to stop the vehicle in between and wasted time on the pretext of showing a tiger even when there were no signs of tigers. Even the guides are hand in glove with tour operators," charged Awdesh Singh and his friends.
When contacted, R K Singh refuted the allegations. On tiger shows, he says, "Is tiger an animal that can be forced to stop. To see the big cat, it needs tight vigil and lots of patience. Even if we hold shows, we do it if all the conditions are conducive. Due to mad rush, visitors could not sight the animal. To regulate the rush we're going in for online bookings and concept of pool vehicle is being promoted."
For The Tiger
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