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Coming soon, tigers in Corbett ‘zoo’

A drive-through safari is being planned on the lines of Gir National Park in Gujarat and Bannerghatta National Park in Karnataka at the Corbett Tiger Reserve.

Last Updated: Mar 02, 2018, 10.50 AM IST|Original: Mar 02, 2018, 10.50 AM IST
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(This story originally appeared in on Mar 02, 2018)
Nainital: Visitors to Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) in Uttarakhand who often complain they didn’t get to see a tiger may soon be assured a sighting as the park’s administration is drawing up plans to open a new zone that will have enclosures for tigers, leopards, bears, elephants and deer.

CTR deputy director Amit Verma said the enclosures will not be like the ones at a zoo but will be “of considerable size”. “A drive-through safari is being planned on the lines of Gir National Park in Gujarat and Bannerghatta National Park in Karnataka. For tigers, we are planning enclosures of around 25 hectares (0.25 square km), for bears it is 15 hectares (0.15 square km), and so on,” Verma said, adding that the idea behind the proposal is to reduce the footfall in other areas of the reserve.

“Many visitors don’t want to visit the entire jungle but just want to see a tiger or a particular animal without any hassle. This zone will provide the experience of being in the wild as well as increase the chances of a sighting considerably,” Verma said. “Visitors will be taken around the area in caged vehicles so that their safety is ensured since they will be moving around in an enclosure of limited space,” he added.

The reserve administration has already drafted a proposal regarding the new zone and sent it to the state forest department for approval. The proposed zone will be in Dhela range of CTR, covering 42-45 square km in the vicinity of the Ramganga river.

However, some experts felt that keeping animals in enclosures would be nothing short of a zoo. “Keeping a tiger in an enclosure, however big it is, is not an ideal situation. The animal will eventually lose its response capabilities to survive in the wild. Also, if kept and bred in captivity for years, tigers are often known to get into depression which can prove fatal,” said Vipul Maurya of the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.

He added that “ideally, a tiger needs around 10-20 square km of area in natural habitat for daily activities and the area expands to 100 square km in some cases when the big cat decides to explore other territories.”

At present, a total of five zones — Jhirna, Dhela, Bijrani, Sonanadi and Dhikala — are open for visitors for day safari and night stay. The five zones witness an average footfall of 700 to 1,000 tourists per day.

But there is support, too, for the plan. A G Ansari, a Ramnagar-based wildlife expert and conservationist, said, “The safari, if run properly, will serve two key purposes — act as a rescue centre, and ease pressure from forest areas of CTR. Most tourists come to the reserve to get a sight of the majestic tiger which is being assured through the safari.”

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