All the three tiger reserves of Rajasthan — Ranthambhore, Sariska and Mukandara — will be closed this year during monsoon, unlike the last few years, officials have confirmed.
Earlier this month, Chief Wildlife Warden (CWW) of Rajasthan, GV Reddy issued an order to the field directors of all three tiger reserves to keep the parks open for tourism during July-September this year.
According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the Rajasthan Forest Department has dropped its orders to keep the parks open during monsoon, as it is the breeding period of wild animals, especially the tigers, and also because of safety concerns for visitors.
The practice of monsoon safari, allegedly under the pressure of a powerful hotel-tourism lobby in Rajasthan had been going on for some time.
This, however, comes as a clear violation of the NTCA technical committee’s decision to keep all the national parks closed during monsoon from July to September, considering the factors — the breeding period of the tigers, condition of forest roads and safety of visitors.
“I am directed to request you to kindly clarify position of Rajasthan with regards to ‘Monsoon Tourism’, which is a blatant violation of this Authority’s letter referred above,” said an NTCA letter to CWW, Rajasthan.
According to officials at Ranthambhore, five of ten zones remain open during monsoon where tourism continues unabated. One zone of Sariska is opened for tourism during monsoon.
“For now, we have been told to keep open only about eight sq. km. of area falling under the peripheral buffer or outer region. There is little chance of sighting there,” said an official at Ranthambhore on the condition of anonymity.
According to the NTCA’s 2014 census, Rajasthan has about 39-51 tigers spread over area of 1,147 sq. km.