Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tiger, Tourists & Forest!

A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees...William Blake.

Go to any forest especially  popular tiger project like Kanha, Bandhavgad or Corbet, thanks to National Geo & Animal Planet channels & when you are touring through the park when any of the other tourists gypsy crosses you; there are exchange of glances amongst the tourists & dialogues but one question haunts you all over, " Dikha kya?". Obviously this is meant for the Tiger & one look at their expression, the faces tell you the story! The dropped faces, eagerness about the sighting of the tiger & the question tells you they are frantically searching for the tiger but haven't seen it yet. On the opposite side if any vehicle has had sighting of the Tiger then just see the glow on their faces, the whole gypsy is rocking & snaps are being shown to each other & tells about how big the animal was & how they were lucky & how it has made their day getting repeated & on & on! They will tip their driver & guide heartily for the sighting. But at the same time if after a day long ride in forest there isn't sighting of the great king of the forest then they will curse all the system including the forest itself!

This is wrong attitude is what a nature lover or a person who has been through the forests will say as sighting of a tiger or any carnivorous big cat is 90% luck & 10% efforts. But not all rather most of the people who visit forests are wild life or nature lover. Its job of people who are nature lover & the system to make these visitors so & some where here the system is failing to do it & that's why we see such reaction about the tiger sighting from the tourists. When ever I have visited forests I always compare them with such foreign tourists spot & there they give a complete know how of what awaits in front to the tourists, so while actually visiting the place you are aware what you will be looking for. Unfortunately at most of the forests or tiger projects there are tourists interaction center but there isn't any interaction as they are just for name sake. Many won’t like my comment but these interaction centers visit should be made mandatory to the tourists visiting forests especially the first timers!

At such centers there should be wee versed display of what forest offers other than Tiger! And this should be displayed in very friendly manner where tourist can relate himself with the surroundings e.g. not using just biological names to the plants & animals but the native ones. It should be audio visual presentation & explaining expectations of the forest from tourists too! As that's where many a parks are lacking, tourist just don't know that this isn't a routine fun outing & there is lot to do other than eating, drinking, laugh & shout! The first & most important demand of forest is let it unfold its beauty to you & for that one needs to take the forest lead role suppressing our nuisance!

Here it’s equally important to mention the way foreign tourists behave in forests! They come with proper study even at extent not to wear bright & shining color clothes which will disturb the animals to what kind of animals/birds are there in forest. And they ask lots of questions to the guides as well follow every instruction given to them. When the guide says silence as he wants to listen alarm calls around from animals like chital or langoors, these tourists maintain a pin drop silence, giving enough room for the guide to focus on locating the exact calling animal & from that the possible direction of tiger or panther for whom the call is being made. And that's why they enjoy the forest most. I always wonder if people coming from so far away can learn the etiquette's of forest then why our people can’t do it? Our people should also learn from them & ask as many questions they can, not just about the tiger but about the plants, insects, local names of the species, geography as well the people of around. As all of these is what makes a forest & it's really interesting information to know making your forest trip more fun.

Another important aspect is the guide as well the vehicle driver itself as they are the people accompanying you in the forest & these two should be part of interaction centers also their experiences should be counted vital. These are the part of system which is in direct face to face contacts with the tourists. What they have experienced in their past, things like demands & comments of the visitors has to be take in account. My another observation is these people are feeling inert day by day towards the entire show as they feel the system especially forest depth isn't taking them in to consideration neither respects their views about the forests. And this gets reflected on the tourists, either they take a back seat & surrenders to demands of tourists of chasing the tiger or just keep mum & observe what’s going on around, that's it. There is a need of training these guides & drivers about proper communication with such tendencies of tourists, tackle it & put forward the message of what should be seen in forest & how they can enjoy the forest if they listens to the guide.

We should make the visitors understand this, that the forest is most enjoyed if we know how to do it & its very simple, surrender to the forest. It don't want any thing from you rather its ready to give you all the experiences which in commercial world we wont ever that too at free of cost. May it be pack of wild dogs at hunt or a serpent eagle waiting silently on branch of a tree or monkeys & chitals in pack taking care of each others or butterflies gliding all over flaunting their bright colors or even a colorful spider waiting with his web ready! As nothing happens in forest for just the sake of it. Every thing, every act has a purpose behind & to understand that purpose is achieved by not just seeing the forest but experiencing it. And we can only do that by living those moments which will be with us for ever.

And last but not least, do think what we should be giving back to the forest
in return of such wonderful moments it has given to us! As our Hindu Sanscriti 
( Culture) hasn't taught us to take any thing at free & though the forest by itself won’t ask anything ever back yet its our responsibility to do so, in what’s ever way we can! I think then only we have really earned our forest trip not for our self only but for the many visitors who will be visiting after us there. Or else like the quote said we will be ending us as a fool only, for not seeing the forest even after being there!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

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