Deccan Chronicle: Kochi: Tuesday, February 14, 2017.
Tiger may bring tourists to the Periyar but the number of visitors shows that it is high time the government sets a closure period to help the national animal survive in the reserve specially made for it. It has come to light that more than seven lakh people visit Periyar Tiger Reserve annually. A reply under Right to Information Act revealed the data which also stated that close to 1.2 lakh vehicles are also reaching the ecologically important spot. PTR, however, has no break to restrain the tourists to the area despite the pollution the visitors and the vehicles cuase.
RTI accessed by Sajimon Salim, a Kumily native, reveals that 7,56,066 people visited the area in 2015. Among them, 44,396 were foreign tourists. The number of foreign students visited during the period is 1,098 while 60 children accompanied their parents or caretakers. As many as 7,54,306 persons visited PTR in 2016 and of them, 42,727 were foreign nationals. As many as 12,115 students and 59,967 children from India visited the area in the year. Interestingly there is no closure period for the Periyar Tiger Reserve which irks green activists and animal rights advocates alike.
The number of visitors came down immediately after the Thekkadi boat tragedy, which killed 45 tourists on September 30, 2009, according to a top source with the Periyar Tiger Reserve. “This year the number may touch 8 lakh," he said. On an average, 7,500 people visit the area while the number is bit less at 500 in June and July.
Activists claim that the authorities can close down the area during the monsoon season and can even consider restricting domestic tourists. Mr Sajimon said that a closure period will indeed help the tigers and other animals in the forest. “If people flock to the region every day the animal may withdraw to deep forest, thus reducing their living space. IF a closure period is allowed animals can live peacefully which will not affect the tourism aspects,” he said.