Bengaluru: Its not poachers, and not encroachers that pose the biggest threat to forest guards. It’s the VVIP! And they are swarming all over the forests, expecting to be taken deep into the jungle where no man has gone before.
Ever since the Supreme Court issued a stay order on tourism management in the tiger reserve, no permission has been given to stay at forest houses that are located in the core areas.
But hey, that hasn’t stopped, Mr and Mrs VVIP and sundry others in their entourage of heading for the forest guest house. In most cases, these stays are not recorded in the log books of the guest houses, say foresters. The list of VIPs is illustrious. Home Minister K.J. George along with his son Rana George, who is a member of State Wildlife Board allegedly stayed at a forest guest house in Sunkadakatte, which is located in the core area of Nagarhole Tiger Reserve. There is no record of their stay, insiders in the Forest Department allege.
Agriculture Minister Krishne Byregowda has visited the BRT Tiger Reserve several times. Chief Secretary Kaushik Mukherji, a photography aficionado, often visits wildlife areas with his son. Last month, the Doddaballapur Forest Department gave permission for night trekking at Makalidurga Hills to the daughter of a senior IAS officer in state.
These visits by the VVIPs are taking a toll on foresters who now have extra duty on their hands. The forest staff is diverted, and vehicles are used for ferrying the guests and for safaris. No commoner or wildlife experts are allowed entry into these core areas, but VIPs enjoy a free run.
One of the forest guesthouses in Bandipur Tiger Reserve has rooms overlooking a watering hole frequented by a tiger, almost every evening. Apparently this is the most sought after guesthouse in Bandipur.
“A well known Kannada actor and actress were allowed to stay in Anti Poaching Camps inside Bandipur a few years ago. The Rangers facilitated the actor duo to stay in camps that are meant for patrolling. A number of VIPs land in Tiger Reserves with letters from ministers. While photography is the main craze among the VIPs, consuming alcohol inside the forests is another fancy,” a forester said.