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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Use of Elephants in Tiger Reserves: Tiger shows vs. Patrolling

Kanha national park is one of the most famous protected forest areas in the country with almost 2000 sq. km’s under it. It was declared under project tiger in the year 1972 but it got special protected area status well before that. Due to undulated landscape and dense forest elephants were called for patrolling the forest. This didn’t only make the task of keeping an eye on poachers and tree fellers easy but also helped the department in taking out the tourists (who were very less than) to see wildlife and especially tiger.

Everything changes with time and so it did here. Elephants which were called for patrolling had a little change of duty and today they are mostly used for tiger shows i.e. to show the visiting tourist tiger from elephant back and a small amount is charged for this few minutes glimpse of the maharaja. As any other VVIP it is certainly not possible to see the king of the forest easily but when the protectors of the king, its body guards indulge in the duty of showing the general public a glimpse of the maharaja where does the protection part goes? What will happen if the security personals of our VVIP netas let everyone visit and see them and start charging a fee for it?

When elephants
leave early morning to track tigers this disturbs all the denizens of the forest and also wherever the elephants move they destroy a lot of forest area. As such elephants are not found in kanha region and we do not have historical records showing its presence. They were especially called to make the work of patrolling easy and to assist in forest management work.

If we look into the tiger track record being kept by the department or talk to local guides and gypsy drivers it is very clear that in those areas where tiger shows are being held tiger sighting by Gypsy’s goes down. Has ever the department tried to see the reason behind this? Certainly they must have done so or may be a few of them must have done so but why no action is being taken or maybe they think it’s not worthwhile to take any action. Are monetary returns more important than giving protection to forest as a whole?

Many forest
officials say we see change of heart when people go back after seeing a tiger and when they have spent such a lot of money they should be able to see a tiger. I agree but at what cost? By playing with the security of the forest? Today we can see tiger on elephant back but what will happen when all tigers are gone? It seems no one is interested in looking for long term good.

As per my experience and knowledge also, tiger sighting by gypsy goes down in any area or range where the elephants are moved and moreover used for tiger tracking and shows. Moreover, if elephants are moved to the core area tigers and other animals start moving out and away from that area which means they will move toward buffer and near to villages. So, what happens here, they become an easy target for poachers. Whereas if elephants are kept in buffer area to keep an eye on poachers and encroachers we not only save our wildlife and forest even wild animals are not disturbed thus they remain in safe core area.

So, is this
one of the major reason behind dwindling tiger population in famous national parks where elephants are being used for tiger shows instead of patrolling? Now this may be one of the reasons surely or may be a minor one at that but surely it should be considered and immediate action taken.

Check for stay and tiger safari at Kanha National Park.