Raksha Shetty,CNN-IBN, May 06, 2006 at 11:58
Bandipur: The jungles of Bandipur are part of a 5,500 square kilometre forest reserve, spanning three states – Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
However, tourism is putting immense pressure on this protected reserve.
Till a couple of years ago, the number of people visiting these jungles was about 40,000 per year. Now, that number has risen to almost 60,000.
The reason for the rise is simple. Notorious smuggler Veerappan, whose reputation for terrorizing visitors was well known, is no more and these animals aren't as intimidating as he once was.
In the post-Veerappan era, Bandipur is fast becoming a hot tourist destination, but the growing presence of private resorts could mean that these animals – now enjoying their quiet time in the wild – could face new threats.
Lavish resorts are springing up in Bandipur and have given state tourism a boost.
But many are concerned that these structures and the tourists they attract may lead to greater conflicts between man and animal and decrease the diversity of species this forest ecosystem is famous for.
Says Wildlife filmmaker K Senani, "Eco-tourism in the true sense has to generate love for the environment. When tourists go back, they should be asked about environment issues. But this is not going to happen with this sort of tourism, no way."
Forest authorites are now thinking twice before giving permissions to new resorts.
According to Deputy Conservator of Forests, Bandipur, B Venkatesh, "A lot of people are approaching us, but we have to be cautious. We have to have some limit, otherwise this growth could be catastrophic."
This is certainly a dire prediction for animals and one that the Karnataka government would do well to take note of.