Tiger Safari banned in Corbett? Here’s what SC said

Jim Corbett Tiger Safari Ban: The Supreme Court today reprimanded the Uttarakhand government for its involvement in the felling of trees and unauthorized construction activities within the Jim Corbett National Park.
The Supreme Court said a committee will look into whether tiger safaris can be permitted in buffer or fringe areas of national parks in the country.

The apex court also directed the Centre to establish a committee tasked with proposing measures to alleviate the environmental damage caused and to seek reimbursement from those accountable. The bench, comprising Justice BR Gavai, Justice PK Mishra, and Justice Sandeep Mehta, was presiding over a petition filed by environmental activist and lawyer Gaurav Bansal. Bansal contested the Uttarakhand government’s plans to establish a tiger safari and a zoo with captive animals within the boundaries of the national park.

Highlighting the detrimental impact of establishing a tiger safari in the core area, the court underscored its contravention of tiger conservation provisions. While the court acknowledged the potential employment opportunities associated with safari tours in the park’s buffer zone, it emphasized the necessity of adhering to established guidelines.

SC also pulled up govt over unprecedented felling of trees and environmental damage in the Tiger reserve. The apex court has also asked the status report on illegal construction, felling of trees in Corbett within three months. The court emphasized the importance of wildlife conservation, as outlined in the national wildlife conservation plan.

Additionally, the court criticized former Uttarakhand Forest Minister Harak Singh Rawat and former divisional forest officer Kishan Chand for engaging in illegal construction activities and unauthorized tree felling within the Corbett Tiger Reserve.

Earlier in January, the Supreme Court had dismissed the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) proposal to establish a tiger safari within national parks, emphasizing the need for an “animal-centric” approach over a “tourism-centric” one.

A bench led by Justice BR Gavai had stated, “We will not permit animals in the zoo to be kept (in cages) at national parks,” highlighting concerns over the NTCA’s 2019 guidelines advocating for the creation of tiger safaris in buffer and fringe areas of tiger reserves. These guidelines aimed to alleviate the tourism pressure from core tiger habitats.

Expressing skepticism, the bench questioned the rationale behind establishing zoos within wildlife sanctuaries, suggesting that such facilities could obstruct the natural movement of animals and potentially spread diseases among them. It suggested that if a zoo were to be constructed, it should be located in designated areas like the Lutyens Zone in the Capital.

The Court’s stance underscores the importance of prioritizing the welfare and conservation of wildlife within national parks, reaffirming the principle of maintaining natural habitats for animals over tourist attractions.

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