Uncontrolled tourism behind vanishing wildlife: Telangana Forest Officer
V. V. Subrahmanyam, The Hindu
May 15, 2022
He belongs to a different breed of officers; one who loves to be out in the
wild and believes only what he sees. That’s Sunil S. Hiremath for you. In a
discussion with The Hindu, the District Forest Officer of Nizamabad says he
makes it a point to frequently visit the blackbuck kingdom at the
Sriramsagar Project (SRSP) backwaters near Nandipet in the district.
“Honestly, once the place got highlighted on social media, thanks to some
amazing photographs by wildlife and nature lovers, it has become a major
tourist attraction. And, in the process, it has led to uncontrolled
tourism. This, we believe is one of the major reasons for causing
disturbance to these blackbucks,” Mr. Hiremath explains.
Although there are plans to regulate entry, it is not an easy task, given
how vast the stretch is, the officer adds. “It is not that we are naive
about the threat perception to the blackbucks. We do have eco-tourism plans
and hope things will improve in the coming days. But it will take time for
sure,” the DFO says.
Importantly, the area needs to be protected, he says, adding, “We are
keeping vigil for sure but because there are so many easy entry and exit
points to the place, it is an uphill, though not an impossible, task.”
On the threat of poachers, the DFO says it is a possibility, especially
given how a poacher had boasted about his trophy hunting in Warni mandal on
social media, holding a licenced rifle in hand and the kill kept in the
boot of an SUV.
Has any poacher been nabbed? “A team from Hyderabad, after being alerted,
did catch one person who was there apparently for hunting. But we couldn’t
build a strong case against him because only a hare was recovered from his
possession,” Mr. Hiremath recalls.
As the next course of action, he shares that community-supported eco
tourism is being promoted, which also means a lot of advantage for the
locals in terms of livelihood opportunities. “We are going to involve
residents of villages in the vicinity in a big way to protect these
blackbucks and other wildlife species,” he added.
Mr Hiremath shares plans of a road track from Ummeda, located close to
Lokeswaram mandal in Nirmal district, connecting Nandipet where the
blackbucks are found in abundance. “We are planning to open it to visitors
only during summers when the backwaters recede and the water from the SRSP
is released for agricultural lands in low-lying areas,” he points out.
“We do believe that with increased road connectivity, wildlife will be
protected as that will also ensure regulated entry. The Forest Development
Corporation, too, has come forward with some concrete plans in this
regard,” he adds.
Is it a missed opportunity, given that thousands of blackbucks could be
sighted here three years ago? “I don’t think so. Yes, the declining number
is a matter of concern. But, we are confident of restoring them to large
numbers once all the plans are put in place,” the officer concludes.