A Governor bats for Wildlife
A trip to Bannerghatta National Park with Karnataka Governor HR Bharadwaj
Sanjay Kapoor Bengaluru
“We are committed to saving the tiger”, asserted Karnataka Governor HR Bharadwaj during a trip to Bannerghatta National Park, 21kms from Bengaluru. Bharadwaj, a self-confessed lover of wildlife, has been visiting Bannerghatta for the last 25 years. As a former Union law minister, he has been instrumental in making the country’s environmental laws friendlier to conserving wildlife in the country. Speaking toHardnews, which accompanied him to the national park, Governor Bharadwaj expressed his keenness to take all the steps necessary to minimise threats to endangered species like the tiger and the lion. “Karnataka is doing a good job in protecting the tiger,” he added. An accompanying forest official told him that the conservation efforts had helped increase the number of tigers in the park from 40 to 65.
Bharadwaj said he was all in favour of protecting the corridors as well so that tigers could have the freedom to move safely from one protected area to another, thereby reducing their conflict with human beings. He was also happy with the Supreme Court order that banned the movement of vehicles in the night from the famous Bandipur National Park. This was in response to the serious situation in Bandipur, which is part of the Nilgiri biosphere, where heavy vehicular traffic was threatening the wildlife. Although this apex court order was resented by the neighbouring state of Kerala, even the Karnataka High Court upheld the decision to ban the night traffic.
What about theindigenous people who reside in these forests? To this question, the Governor said they should be rehabilitated with dignity if the circumstances warrant their relocation. The accompanying forest official clarified that the people living in the Bandipur National Park had agreed to leave and a place had been identified for their rehabilitation. All these steps, the official claimed, would improve the quality of the national park and ease tensions between the forest department and locals.
An enthusiastic Bharadwaj later went on a lion, tiger and bear safari. Bannerghatta Park is also used for relocating many of the animals that are rescued from circuses or from the clutches of those who illegally keep them. The bears in Bannerghatta had been seized from people who made a living from them.
The safaris are a controlled environment where tigers and lions are kept in separate enclosures. From Royal Bengal tigers with yellow stripes, to the giant albino white tiger —they can all be found here in the park. Though purists would prefer to see a tiger in the wild, gathering or killing its prey, the tigers here are fed daily in their enclosures. There is also a separate ‘old tigers home’ where tired old cats are given medical care and looked after.
Bharadwaj was quite appreciative of the forest department’s efforts to look after the tigers in the state. Is it the only way tigers will survive in the country? “Saving the tiger is very important for our wildlife as well as for our food chain. One thing good about Karnataka is that there is no poaching — rampant in the North and Central India,” he commented.
His concern for wildlife came to the fore when the Raj Bhavan (Governor House) adopted a baby elephant saved by the park authorities. Bharadwaj christened the elephant as Aswathama.
“Bengaluru is privileged to have a national park so rich in wildlife close by. Its presence on the city’s periphery also serves as a natural limit to the expansion of the city,” he added.