By Meera Bhardwaj,

Express News Service

-BENGALURU: Tiger reserves may soon open for tourism as the national tiger authority has released a series of guidelines. Veterinary and wildlife experts have welcomed the move, however, warn of the infection spread to big cats from asymptomatic tourists and said more measures are needed for safer tiger tourism. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) will allow eco-tourism in tiger reserves only if guidelines are strictly followed.

They include thermal screening of tourists, drivers, and guides at entry points. Every one shall use face masks/ shields while every vehicle should carry sanitizer. Hailing the initiative, Society of Wildlife Veterinarians (south chapter) Secretary Dr. H S Prayag said, “All tiger reserves should follow SOP strictly. However, the problem arises with asymptomatic carriers and if they throw soiled tissue/napkins within the reserves, there are possibilities of viral transmission from humans to tigers.

So littering of any tissue paper, napkins, tetra packs, etc should not be allowed.” Another important measure that should be included is the introduction of pulse oxymeters as they have done at airports, he stressed. Also, safari vehicles have to be sanitized after every tour. No eatables should be allowed inside the reserves as they can be a potential source of infection.

Tiger reserves have been closed during the lockdown and it has been a peaceful time for tigers, ambling all around without being disturbed by tourists/vehicles, said forest officials.“In all the five tiger reserves – Bandipur, Nagarhole, BRT, Bhadra, and Kali — it was not just tigers but other wildlife were found roaming peacefully. MM Hills Wildlife Sanctuary which is soon set to be declared as a tiger reserve too has been peaceful for the tigers. However, since the pandemic, all tiger reserves have taken a financial beating and so tiger tourism has to restart,” they added.

Covid-19 SOPs at tiger reserves

  • Strict temperature checking of tourists
  • Isolation/ evacuation of tourists with high temperatures
  • Face mask/face shield must
  • Usage of sanitizer
  • Vehicle tyres to undergo disinfectant bath
  • Children below 10 years and seniors above 65 not allowed
  • Carry age-proof documents
  • Vehicular seating capacity reduced by 50 %
  • No disembarking inside tiger reserves

Read the full article in The New Indian Express here