Ranthambhore: the next Sariska. This fear has been haunting us for a while now. What exactly are we trying to do, making more national Parks? Or possibly trying to delay the extinction of the tiger? Nothing more. Of course, addition to the Government’s moolah through entertaining tourists is partly the reason too.
Why do I say so? Yes, I have been to the Ranthambore National Park twice now, and haven’t seen a tiger but that is not the reason. In reality, the modus operandi governing the Park is appallingly shabby. Consider the canters (the trucks), used in the safaris. The noise these monsters make would cause any living thing with ears to bolt, leave alone an animal already wondering where others of its kind have been disappearing to. It is shameful that even after the orders from the Centre to terminate their usage; these canters continue to haunt the routes of this Park.
It has become an enterprise. Instead of showing the keen tourist the wildlife park and enlivening their imaginations and zeal towards the wild forever, the safari at times, becomes a three hour long obligation, where the driver pulls the truck ruthlessly through the forest pathways. Then again, if there is no possibility of a sighting along a given path, the guide directs the truck to abandon the tiger trail and instead venture out of the Park core into the surrounding rural establishments, in order to at least show the tourists some village life so that the three hours don’t seem entirely wasted.
I feel the pressure on the Park would be greatly reduced if it was not publicized as being an exclusive tiger reserve but more as a wildlife sanctuary. For, the other wildlife that can be seen here includes crocodiles, owls and various exquisite bird species, wild boars, sloth bears, and deer. If tourists come expecting to see all these, their disappointment would be reduced greatly.
The Government, in order to save the life of a leopard cub, which was abandoned by it’s mother, had begun a project to save his life by virtually domesticating it. Seeing the fiscal benefits of this venture, the tour guides; after an unfruitful safari offer the tourists an exciting proposition of seeing a leopard for sure. They demand extra money from each tourist on the condition to accept the money only if a leopard is sighted. The area cordoned for this project is pretty small, and the chances of seeing the leopard are almost certain. Thus, fooling the customer by telling him the leopard is in the wild, these tour operators make their extra money.
After all, the national Park is not an amusement Park where the lucky ones get to see a tiger. It is a serious project with a concrete aim, that of saving an acutely endangered specie. It must be realized that the Park is, in effect, the home of the tiger. We are the intruders. Sensing our presence, the tiger probably goes into hiding, the hunter feels hunted. Reducing the influx of humans might bring relief to the tiger.
As I see it, the Park has become a rundown machine. Blessed with don’t care employees who are ageing, inadequate as well as indifferent; money greedy tour guides, disinterested organizers and extremely poor security, the Park’s very purpose now seems distant and hazy. ”Nothing is foolproof; only the Almighty is perfect,” by saying so,
Shafat Hussein, Ranthambhore’s Chief Conservator washes his hands clean from the lack of initiative that the Park has shown.
Also, the fact is that there is hardly any check on the number of villagers that come and go out of the Park, paying a meager sum to the forest guards to gain entry. The infiltration of the Park by members of the Moghiya tribe, who are hired by the villagers to protect their livestock, (If they can get away with killing sambars, boars, even sloth bear, their involvement in tiger or leopard poaching would not come as a surprise), is another major concern. All these factors establish the Park as a highly careless false show of wildlife protection.
If required, I feel, the Park should be closed down, thereby barring the tourists to enter the premises, so that the tigers can, once again, establish themselves and grow in number. Needless to say, the security around the Park needs to be tightened from a near non-existence state at present. Having elephant safaris could make the ambience more natural as well. All we can hope for is that this project receives greater attention, so that the hero of the Jim Corbett’s and William Blakes’ works and the undisputed king of the Indian jungles, survives to reign supreme, a little longer.
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mumbleyjoe/1520473493/]