Should Canterís be allowed?
There is a boom in tourism in India and wildlife tourism has increased as well. Visiting a wildlife sanctuary or a National Park is seen as a fashionable thing. To cater to the crowd, the forest department has engaged buses or Canterís to take the tourists into the forest for a quick trip. Let us examine the reasons and impact of such large people movers.
1) Limited View: At any given moment only one or two people will have a good view of an animal or bird from a canter or bus. In the forests of South India, the buses or Canterís as they are called, have covered roofs unlike the open topped ones used in Ranthambhore National Park. So the rest will jostle with each other and create lot of noise. I have seen people madly using their cameras, along with excited yells and grunts of having taken a picture. When the noise irritates us, I wonder what would have been going in the minds of those poor animals.
2) Feeling of Picnic: Canter gives a feeling of being in a picnic. Because of the concept of ďcircuitĒ, tour operators include one Safari in Ranthambhore, one trip to the temple in the fort along with other places like Mount Abu. Most of these tourists donít know the difference between a tiger in wild and a pet, and since these tourists board together in a canter, they become unmanageable.
3) Noise due to size: Canter due to its size makes a lot of noise. It normally frightens animals. In Ranthambhore I saw a small Sambar fawn running away at full speed while its mother was looking at us in an alarmed stance. Perhaps it was the first time the fawn had seen the intimidating size of a canter. If this fawn, while running away from its mother at full speed, would have fallen prey to a predator, it is we who are responsible.
4) More people more is the indecision: In a canter due to more number of people it is not possible for all of them to agree to wait at a given place or move ahead. There would always be restless souls who would like to keep on moving. When you move around in the canter, the sounds of the jungle canít be heard. Only when you hear the jungle talk then the entire scenario unfolds before your eyes and you can really enjoy. Then there is a process of discovery and thrill involved. Else it becomes like a Zoo.
5) Disturbance: In Nagarhole National Park, I was photographing a lone tusker. The tusker was hardly ten feet away but was feeding in a peaceful manner. After some time, a canter with tourists came from the opposite side and tried to overtake me. Immediately, the elephant got disturbed by the sound of the canter and gave vent to a shrill trumpet and mock charged. I moved ahead and allow the canter to pass. After sometime, I turned back to see if the elephant was still there. I found the elephant at a distance and then moved my vehicle closer and parked it. Within ten minutes another Canter appeared in the scene, this time from the opposite direction and passed by the side of the elephant. The elephant got annoyed and again trumpeted and charged. Elephants get irritated and charge where as other smaller animals just run away from the scene. There have been hardly any study on the impact of man made intrusions into the lives of wild animals, but based on my observations I believe Canters to be a nuisance and is undesirable and only jeeps should be allowed to ply inside the sanctuaries and National Parks.