Kanha national park in central India is starting Night Safaris in the buffer zone. Only time will tell if this is a good, bad or an ugly decision. Let us not jump the gun in ridiculing the step, neither let us support it with closed eyes, let us try and understand the pros and cons of starting Night Safaris in Kanha. This has been tried in Satpura and Pench National Parks already, and now being brought to Kanha.
Night Safaris in Kanha National Park
It is always better to know the negative and flip side first, followed by the positive side too.
Negatives of promoting Night Safaris in Kanha
Having personally done a night safari of about 2 hours in Satpura I know for sure that it is not easy to sight Tigers, or any other wildlife with naked eyes in the pitch dark of a forest. Either one needs to go in with the night vision glasses, which are not easily or cheaply available, or one needs a searchlight to see the animals. Please note one needs a serious searchlight in the night of the forest. Now, what do you think will this powerful searchlight do; it will make tracking animals easy, and it will hurt the animal eyes for sure, resulting in temporary blindness. So, we need to ask this question, is it worth it, is it required?
What if poachers also book these safaris in the buffer zone, to try and pick on the animals? Hopefully, the forest department has thought about the repercussion and has a solution for this.
Will the night safaris not change the behavioral aspects of the animals? It is a known fact that the herbivores usually come out in the grasslands, or in the fields of the villagers in the buffer to feed on the crops. So when the flashlights start running around in the night, will they be able to eat in peace? The counter to this is that herbivores eat during the day in the grasslands. But not so in the buffer zones. We see them eating in the grasslands in the core zones of the forest as they are usually not disturbed in the vast grasslands of the core zone. But in the buffer area, the grasslands are not as big, the fields near the villages are small. So my gut feeling is that the night safaris might disturb the feeding habits of the herbivores.
Positives of Nights Safaris in Kanha
- I recently read the news that some poaching has happened in the buffer areas of Kanha. So the night safari will deter the poachers to stay away from the buffer zones for sure. It is a noted fact that most of the poaching happens in the buffer. While there is regular patrolling happening by the forest department and also the tourist vehicles, there is no patrolling but the tourist vehicles in the buffer zones. Hence these zones are far more susceptible for poaching. Hence any movement of tourism in the buffer zones will be a deterrent to the poachers. If done and controlled well, this can be the trump card of the forest department to curtail poaching.
- It surely will be a revenue generator as well for the forest department and they can utilize this revenue towards conservation of the flora and fauna.
- There are plenty of buffer areas in Kanha, like the Baisan ghat area, Samnapur area, area between Banjar river and Bamni. There is the presence of Tigers in these buffers, hence any safaris during the day or night here will be only beneficial.
Suggested steps if taken by the forest department may optimally utilize the night safaris.
- The tourists will need to be briefed about the code of conduct in the night safaris in Kanha.
- There must be standardization of searchlights that should be used.
- Ideally, a forest guard must accompany the tourists to ensure discipline during the safari.
Hope this initiative of night safaris in Kanha is a huge success in conserving the flora and fauna of Kanha.
– Sharad Vats