Wildlife experts oppose decision to open Corbett, Rajaji tiger reserves round the year

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Dehradun, Jun 26 (PTI) Wildlife experts in Uttarakhand on Saturday strongly opposed the state government's decision to open Corbett and Rajaji tiger reserves for visitors all round-the-year, saying it amounts to cruelty to the animal world. 'The rule to close tiger reserves for around four months from June to mid November every year was framed after considering all aspects. Opening them for visitors round-the-year just for income generation will be an act of cruelty to animals. We will oppose the decision legally and on all other platforms to ensure that it is withdrawn in the interest of wildlife,' former wildlife warden for Nainital Dinesh Pandey said. Wildlife tourism is not open round-the-year anywhere in India or abroad, he said. Uttarakhand's forest and environment minister Harak Singh Rawat recently announced that Corbett and Rajaji tiger reserves will now remain open for visitors throughout the year. The two tiger reserves whose major parts are located in Nainital and Haridwar districts, respectively remain closed to visitors every year from June 30 to mid November. The decision to keep the two tiger reserves open round-the-year was taken after a discussion with forest department officials as part of plans to boost its income which has been hit hard by the Covid pandemic over the last one-and-half year, the minister said. However, wildlife experts and activists feel the decision is not good for animals as monsoon is the breeding time for them and the crowd of visitors may be disturbing for them. It may even lead to rise of man-animal conflict situations, they warned. 'The state government should review its decision to open the tiger reserves throughout the year because monsoon is also the mating season for a number of wild animals, including elephants, who roam freely around the forests in search of a mate. 'Movement of both animals and humans in the wild during the season may also give rise to man-animal conflict situations,' State Head of the Wildlife Protection Society of India Rajendra Agarwal said. It may affect the behaviour of animals and make them more aggressive, he said. 'Closure of the tiger reserves for around four months every year from June-end to mid November is also good for the restoration of vegetation at the reserves which caters to the food requirements of the herbivores, including pachyderms, inhabiting them. Opening them round-the-year for visitors will impede that process of regeneration,' said a former member of the state wildlife board on request of anonymity.

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