Lessons for Sri Lanka from Bhandavaghar National Park, India

Friday, 27 April 2018 00:00

By Dhanushka R. Fonseka

Recently I visited one of the most visited National Parks in India,famed for its vast number of flora and fauna, the Bhandavaghar National Park. It is one of the most popular national parks in India located in the Umaria District of Madhya Pradesh.

Bhandavaghar was declared a National Park in 1968, with an area consisting of 1536km2. (593sq mi). It has five zones out of which only three zones are open to the public and visitors. These are namely Tala, Magdhi andKhitauli.

This National Park has a large biodiversity. The density of the tiger population in Bhandavaghar is one of the highest known in India. According to information from wild life officials, there are over 79 identified Bengal tigers in the park. The park also has a large number of breeding of leopards, deer, antelope and a multitude of birds.

As a wildlife enthusiast who often travels to National Parks in Sri Lanka, it was frankly a paradigm shift for me regarding the genuine effort given to wildlife conservation in India.

The rules imposed by the Department of Wildlife are truly commendable and those regulations are fully adhered to and implemented by the authorities, park rangers, hotels and resorts in the vicinity as well as the visitors.

A few of the rules and regulations are as follows:

nPark tickets can only be purchased online and they are intentionally limited in number:This rule is common for locals as well as foreigners. Your passport or national identification number has to be entered at the booking and at the park entrance,which in turn is verified by the officials. Hence tickets are not available at the park entrance for purchase.

nA limited number of vehicles are allowed inside the park for game drives:The morning game drives starts at 5:45a.m. and ends at 11a.m. while the evening game drive starts at 3:45p.m. and can last until 6:45p.m. Zone Khitulli – Morning 15 vehicles and evening 15 vehicles maximum; Zone Maghaghi – Morning20 and evening 20 vehicles maximum;Zone Tala – Morning20 and evening 20 vehicles maximum– totalling to only 110 vehicles per day.

nExit times: If a jeep driver fails to exit the park at the stipulated time before the park gates close, even by one minute, the driver will be banned from driving in the park for one month.

nNo phone signals inside the park: Since there are no telecommunication towers nor phone reception inside the park, jeep drivers don’t get an opportunity to rush to a sighting and make chaos inside the park. Rather, each jeep takes their time to track animals and enjoy sightings at their own pace.

As these rules are imposed in the park by the wildlife conservation authorities at the highest level, discipline is maintained to protect and respect nature. One of the naturalists from the hotel asked me how many vehicles were allowed in Sri Lankan national parks and I was quite embarrassed to provide him with the answer – almost600 vehicles per day at Yala National Park block 1 only. The naturalist was in absolute shock upon hearing this.

I returned home quite saddened about the way our wildlife and natural work is gradually being ruined by our ownselves. It’s a valuable lesson learnt on how much countries like India have progressed over the years in terms of wildlife conservation and holding citizens accountable to protect and conserve their natural heritage for future generations.

As a nation, where are we heading? It’s still not too late to enact stringent laws to protect our flora and fauna especially those endemic to Sri Lanka and ensure everyone plays a key role in upholding such laws and regulations in the face of the country’s dwindling natural resources.

(The writer is the Director Credit and Marketing at Mercantile Investments and Finance.)

82 wild elephants killed in Sri Lanka from Jan to March this year

Bernama: A total of 82 wild elephants have been killed in the human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka during the first quarter of this year, according to an official here, reported Xinhua news agency.

Sri Lankan Wildlife Conservation Department Director General M. G. C. Sooriyabandara told Xinhua that the elephants had been killed by gunshot injuries in most cases.

He said the most number of elephant deaths were reported from the eastern part of the country. Sri Lanka boasts a number of 6,000 wild elephants, according to the census conducted in 2012.

The Director General said his office would conduct another survey this year. Last year, as many as 256 elephants were killed in the wild.


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