NEW DELHI: A Supreme Courtconstituted committee has asked the Union Environment Ministry to amend or withdraw guidelines related to setting up zoos and safaris within tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries to discourage the use of wildlife habitats for tourism activities which are non-site specific.
In its report submitted to the apex court, the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) also said that approvals given for setting up zoos and safaris within tiger reserves and protected areas should be withdrawn forthwith.
It said tiger safaris being “non-site specific” should also be discouraged within forest areas since the Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022 discourage diversion of forest land for non-site specific activities under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
Setting up tiger safaris,
zoos in wildlife habitats
Corbett Tiger Reserve
The SC panel’s observation came on an issue involving the establishment of a tiger safari in the buffer area of Corbett Tiger Reserve in Uttarakhand.
According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) guidelines issued in 2012 and amended in 2016 and 2019, tiger safaris can be established in buffer and fringe areas of tiger reserves to “reduce pressure of tourism on core and critical tiger habitats and to foster awareness for eliciting public support”.
Also, the ministry had said in June last year that the establishment of zoos on forest areas should not be considered a non-forest activity, doing away with the need for approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. Only in exceptional cases, the fringes of the buffer zone of protected areas may be considered for the construction of a zoo on forest land, it had said.
No CZA approval
The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) should also not consider and approve the establishment of zoos and safaris within tiger reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, along animal corridors and animal dispersal routes, the panel said. It said the NTCA should make it mandatory that tiger safaris be established “only outside the notified tiger reserves and the natural habitat of tigers”.
“The tiger corridors and tiger dispersal routes shall always be avoided so as to ensure that the tiger habitat is not sacrificed for the development of tourism,” it added. The CEC observed that safaris and zoos are one of the tools of exsitu conservation of wildlife outside their natural habitat, including through captive breeding.