Tiger Conservation Body Seeks Odisha Report on Ecotourism Within Reserve
The National Tiger Conservation Authority has asked the Odisha wildlife director to submit a status report on the adverse impact of tourism in the Satkosia Tiger Reserve by December 18. The move came after wildlife activist Biswajit Mohanty alleged that ecotourism activities such as camping at sandy resorts, river cruises, and tree-bridge walks were having an adverse impact on local wildlife. .
In his letter to the NTCA, Mohanty had complained that setting up 20 tents in Badmul on the bed of the Mahanadi River within the Satkosia Tiger Reserve would be extremely harmful to local wildlife.
“River beds are unique ecological spaces that deserve to be abandoned. The bed of the Mahanadi River within the tiger reserve is used for sunbathing and nesting turtles and crocodiles. Birds such as Indian crawlers, terns, and baskets use it for nesting and feeding. Setting up tents and allowing tourists to stay on riverbeds affects wildlife and affects their ecological needs, including the sun, which is vital for the metabolism of cold-blooded creatures.
“Night bonfires also affect nocturnal wildlife, disorienting their vision and thus affecting their ability to feed and move freely. Similarly, sand sports such as basketball, soccer, and volleyball will lead to compaction of the sand, rendering the habitat unsuitable for ground-dwelling, burrowing, and egg-laying fauna, ”he noted. Mohanty in his letter.
Wildlife Director HS Upadhyay and Forest and Environment Department Additional Chief Secretary Mona Sharma did not comment on the NTCA letter.
In his letter, Mohanty made exceptions to motorized boat cruises within the Satkosia Gorge in the central area of the tiger reserve, claiming that the sound and vibration of OBM engines would disturb aquatic fauna such as turtles, fish, crocodiles and avian fauna such as migratory waterfowl seen in large numbers. Very often, crocodiles and turtles sunbathing on the riverbank have to dive when they see the approaching tourist boat, which affects their metabolism depending on the winter sun, he claimed.
Mohanty also said that the treetop walk, another ecotourism initiative in Satkosia, would end up disturbing birds that use the tree canopy for nesting and perching and even resting. “They would be annoyed if tourists came close to 10-15 feet away to observe them at the same level high above the ground. Their chicks would get stressed if humans approached them, ”she complained in her letter.
The NTCA letter to the Odisha government also comes in the context of a failed exercise to repopulate the dwindling tiger population of Satkosia, Odisha’s second tiger reserve after Similipal.
In June 2018, the NTCA with the government of Odisha and MP had relocated a male and female tiger as part of India’s first interstate relocation campaign of tigers. However, the program was abandoned after the relocated male tiger was poached while two villagers were killed in an attack by the tigress. The tigress, named Sundari, is now housed in a small enclosure waiting to be transported back to Madhya Pradesh.
Last month, the state forest department had proposed a 5-year action plan for the community-managed ecotourism scheme from 2021-22 to 2025-26 worth Rs 160.70 million in which officials suggested corporatizing the ecotourism organization by creating a lean corporation. with the chief wildlife keeper as chief. The meeting chaired by the chief secretary discussed the institutional provision for speedy financial approvals, freedom in hiring employees, and the participation of domain experts.