December 22, 2016
Animals encroaching into human habitation is considered fearsome, but sometimes people can behave so insensitively that animals too are disturbed.
Overenthusiastic tourists, who get very close to the animals, including endemic species, to take pictures or to feed them at the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) are actually a disturbance. Tourists passing through the reserve to reach Valparai often park their vehicles on the Ghat Road when they see an animal to take photographs or selfies.
“Animals, including the State animal of Tamil Nadu, the Nilgri Tahr, are usually found near hairpin bends and constant exposure to humans has changed their behaviour,” a senior ATR official said. He pointed out that the naturally shy animals have now become used to human presence. “Earlier, the animals were not easy to spot because of the camouflage and they would run away immediately when a human approached, but that has changed,” said the official.
And tourists take advantage of this change and start getting too close to the animals when they come to feed near the hairpin beds. “Tourists have also started disturbing other endemic mammals, such as the the Lion Tailed Macaque (LTM) found only in the Western Ghats,” informed an official, adding that feeding of the bonnet macaques have changed their behaviour.
“Bonnet macaques now associate humans with food. They start plucking at any packets, bags and even the pouches in two-wheelers hoping to find food in them,” said Y Rathipriya, a resident of Valparai.
Special teams have been deployed to monitor and also educate tourists to not feed the animals, particularly the LTMs.
Out of fear tourists largely leave larger mammals, like elephants, undisturbed. However, according to locals, even these animals are troubled by the sound of speeding and noisy, accelerating vehicles.
Reacting to the issue, District Forest Officer (Pollachi) V Subbiah said that perpetrators are being punished according to the Wildlife Protection Act. “We are also creating awareness among tourists by putting up signboards on the Ghat Road, inside the reserve,” he said.
The reserve had a population of more than 20 tigers, 1,400 deer, 800 elephants, 1,500 Indian gaur and 6,000 sambar deer in its 1,479 sq km area. The reserve has its boundaries in Coimbatore, Tiruppur and Dindigul.