By Vijay Kumar
CHAMARAJANAGAR: The Bandipur tiger reserve, the country’s first such conservation reserve where Project Tiger was first implemented, is all set to enter into its 50th year next year.
Bandipur was declared a tiger conservation project in 1973. With just 13 tigers then, the reserve boasts of 140 tigers now, the second highest in the country. The forest area, which was about 1,200 sqkm then, had only about 10-13 tigers. Since then, due to effective conservation efforts, the tiger population has increased to over 140 now.
Also, the population of prey animals for carnivores had dropped, but now even their numbers have increased, resulting in a healthy population of tigers too.
Conservator of Forests, Bandipur, Ramesh Kumar says, “Bandipur was the first to be declared a tiger reserve in the country. Project Tiger was implemented in 1973 and there only nine tigers reserves were announced at that time. There were only 12 tigers then, but as per the phase-4 data of the 2020 tiger census, there are 143 tigers. In these 50 years, there has been a marked increase in the tiger population.
“On November 17 this year, we complete 49 years and will step into the 50th year. We will celebrate the occasion through the year. We will invite officers who had previously worked in Bandipur too. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has also lined up a host of programmes and an international conference is likely to be hosted in Bengaluru. Delegates from 13 countries which have tiger population are expected to attend”.
The Bandipur tiger reserve attracts thousands of tourists, both domestic and foreign. The safari rides are also a big hit with the visitors. However, conservationists object to the ways of working of the Forest Department.
They point out that the officials have failed to create awareness about the importance of conserving ecology and say that the department is only interested in numbers. They have suggested that the Forest Department should take more steps to create awareness about the importance of conserving forests and wildlife.
“Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi inaugurated Project Tiger in the country. When we talk about forests and wildlife, only numbers and figures come to the fore. But we don’t talk about creating a healthy environment for wild animals. It is difficult to understand the complex diversity of a forest.
“Now, there are 179 tigers and latest estimates put the tiger population in Bandipur at nearly 200. A tiger’s territory is about 11 sqkm and Bandipur is spread across 1,200 sqkm. This means only 120 tigers can live. Where will the other tigers go? In 1972, the forest extended till the Anjaneya temple at Melukamanahalli. Now, there are villages, resorts within the forest area and there are no corridors for movement of the animals from one forest to another. Otherwise, this will become a zoo”, said
“The forest, which was destroyed in a major five years ago, has not been rejuvenated and has taken us 20 years back. Thousands of hectares of forest land was destroyed. If it continues this way, either the forest and wildlife will be destroyed or the animals will enter cities. What are we doing to educate children about the environment? Once a year, the Forest Department packs 50 children in a bus and takes them on a safari under a programme called ‘Chinnara Vana Darshana’. What about the other children? How are they to gain knowledge about forests and wildlife or develop a love for nature? They are only increasing the ticket price for safari and making money. More than celebration, the authorities should focus on raising awareness”, Madhu added.