By Patricia M.
May 25, 2013
My friend's story poses an interesting question re: NP management: In February, I made a lifelong dream come true by joining a group trip to South India. I was drawn to the itinerary focusing on India's natural places--national parks, tiger reserves and bird sanctuaries, with the opportunity to do some hiking. Our first park visit was to Nagarahole in the state of Karnataka in the Western Ghats and was my favorite on this exciting tour. Our accommodations were in a government-run eco-lodge, the former hunting lodge of the Maharaja of Mysore, set on several wooded acres at the edge of a park reservoir. Our 3 night stay included two forays each day into the park with a park naturalist. National park management in India differs greatly from ours in the U.S. While we set man and wildlife up for conflict by paving roads throughout our parks which crisscross wildlife trails leading inevitably to collisions between vehicles and animals. In Yellowstone more than 100 large mammals are killed by cars each year. At Nagarahole the park, which shares borders with two others, has a core area where man is not allowed to set foot. This area is surrounded by a buffer zone which has some intrusion by park staff, and the outer ring of the park is the tourist zone. It is not open 24/7 as our national parks are. Tourists rise at 6, have tea, and leave before 6:30 for the park entrance. We rode on unpaved roads in the tourist zone until 8:30 a.m. when the park closed only re-opening at 4:30 pm. Park busses were just large enough for our group of 9. Park closing is at 6:30 with fines imposed if you are late exiting. While we were at Nagarahole, we had 6 drives in the park. After the fourth one, we were convinced it was too hard to see the tiger or the leopard. But on our fifth drive, around 6 pm, we heard from tourists in another bus that they'd seen a tiger at a nearby watering hole. We rushed there and found a resting tiger. He lifted his head and licked an injured paw from time to time. We quietly observed from about 75 yards away. During this spell, I saw two beautiful new species of bird flying back and forth across the water. On our way out of the park that evening we were still in luck as we saw two leopards. Next morning on our final drive, the tiger was still at the water, nursing his injury and the leopards were mating repeatedly! I had decided to bird around the lodge grounds and missed this sighting, but I did add to my birdlist the gorgeous Coppersmith Barbet. By tour's end, I had seen 120 species of birds and gaur, chittal, barking deer, mongoose, lemur and more mammals, a couple of snakes and a bright green lizard. Near the end of our tour, we had the chance to hear a recently retired forest supervisor give a presentation on the many environmental pressures faced by India's parks and forests. His vision would be to exclude human activity in the parks and protected areas altogether in order to save the tiger and other threatened species.