Is This Right?
June 2011: While tourism offers a wonderful opportunity to make wildlife conservation a tangible source of profit, great care must be taken to ensure that it does not become a threat itself. A recent incident in the buffer zone of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve is a case in point. When a herd of elephants, including two calves, reached a waterhole, they were denied their basic right to water on a hot summer day. Within two minutes of their reaching the waterhole they were literally chased away by domestic dogs near a tourism resort. It must have taken hours for them to find another source.
Tourism resorts often claim that even if they are placed in critical wildlife corridors they do little harm. In my experience they end up fragmenting the habitat, blocking migratory corridors and exerting pressure on the habitat and wildlife. Some resorts are intentionally built near the only available water source. This affects all species by rendering vast areas inaccessible to animals that cannot survive without access to water. Often such lodges fence large areas. I saw one very direct consequence of irresponsible tourism and must believe this is the rule not the exception.
Is this right?
3.57 p.m.: The elephants move towards a waterhole about 300 m. from where they have gathered in a forest that has been disturbed and fragmented by a mango orchard and a wildlife tourism resort.
4.59 p.m.: The elephants manage to move past the resort after several tentative attempts, when they were prevented from accessing the water by dogs and guards employed by the resort.
5.23 p.m.: The elephants somehow get to the waterhole despite blatant efforts to scare them away. It takes them 25 minutes to cover the short distance of 100 m. to reach the waterhole, which is located just 50 m. from the resort.
5.26 p.m.: It’s a warm summer day, and elephants would normally spend considerable time at the waterhole to slake their thirst and cool off.
5.27 p.m.: One of the herd females is alarmed by domestic dogs that land up at the waterhole and begin barking furiously at the elephants.
5.27 p.m.: In a panic, fearing for their calves, the elephants move away.
5.29 p.m.: One of the adults escorts the calves to safety, while the other two confront the dogs and chase them away. But the elephants abandon the waterhole and vanish into the forests.
By Sanjay Gubbi