Supreme Court panel moves to discourage tourism in wildlife habitat

 Wednesday, February 8, 2023 


In order to “discourage tourism in wildlife habitat, particularly those which are non-site specific”, the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) has asked the Union Environment Ministry to review guidelines issued under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, and Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, relating to setting up of zoos and safaris within tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries in India.

“Any approval given for setting up of zoos and safaris within the tiger reserves and protected areas are withdrawn forthwith, except to permit animal rescue activities involving rescue and rehabilitation of injured/incapacitated animals from the same landscape,” the Times of India cited based on the CEC report.

The CEC in its report specifically mentioned that “only animals of respective landscapes are to be rescued and rehabilitated in the concerned rescue centres that are being set up in tiger reserves and protected areas”.

The move came after a probe into the Corbett safari case of Uttarakhand, in which the panel pulled up various wings of the Union environment ministry, including the Central Zoo Authority and National Tiger Conservation Authority, for “loopholes in the guidelines, inadvertently paving way for the illicit works”.

The Time of India further explained that last year in June, the environment ministry had stipulated that zoos are a “forestry activity and can be established in forests and buffer zones of wildlife sanctuaries”. It had then decided to omit paragraphs 12.6 and 12.7 of the handbook of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, where animals “are kept for exhibition as a non-forestry activity”.

This particular step had drawn strong criticism from environmentalists and wildlife lovers who expressed concern that the move would exploit wild animals and their habitat substantially.

The next date of hearing at the Apex Court has been scheduled for February 8.

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