What Ails Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve?
Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve with its more than 2 tigers per sq. km area of its tourism zone is a prime attraction for photographers and tourists alike. I spend at least two weeks in this park every year. However, this year I came back with some painful experiences.
The Tala range of this Park which was popular with tourists and photographers has been divided into three zones. It was said that this will help in restricting people to the popular Tala zone and push people into the other ranges. From this year, 45 tourist vehicles are allowed into the Tala Zone and 73 into the Magdi zone. I found that only a few vehicles go to the Magdi and Khitouli zones. The area available to the 45 tourist vehicles in the Tala zone has shrunk and results in more crowding when there is a sighting. Earlier, when vehicles used to crowd in the Sidhababa or Chakradhara grasslands, one could move ahead into the Rajbehera and Sehra areas in search of other tigers. However, this year, Sehra is in a different zone. So one has to be restricted into these areas and increase the traffic jam.
Park Authorities blinded by Tourism Focus:
The focus of the park management is primarily on tourism. Tourists will flock if the health of the Park is good and can stop coming once they know that the Park is in decline.
The Bandhavgarh Park management has undertaken lot of construction work around the Park, primarily road building and watch towers. Unfortunately, not much of thought has gone behind it. Letís look at the case of the watchtower erected in Rajbehera.
A thatch hut kind of structure has been set up in the hill overlooking the Rajbehera dam. Previous year, I had seen the Jhurjhura female leaving her small cubs in this hill and going for hunt. She has drastically reduced her visits to the area since the construction of this hut on her path. I saw her once with her cubs in that area and she growled looking at the thatch hut before crossing it. Of course, the thatch hut was unoccupied at that time. I hope better sense prevails and the Park management would dismantle the structure soon.