By Rachna Singh
JAIPUR: Increasing anthropogenic disturbance in natural ecosystem is becoming a threat to biodiversity conservation in the Jhalana forest. A few days back when a Golden Jackal was rescued from a bathroom in Durgapura, the rescue team didn't know where to leave it. Normally, rescued animals are released back in the forest area in Jhalana. But recently it is getting a bit difficult. People are undertaking night safaris allegedly in connivance with the forest officials, which is causing inconvenience to the rescue teams.
"We have the necessary permissions to leave rescued animals from the city in Jhalana forest and have been doing so for past several years. But in the recent past when we were carrying the wild raptors and other animals to release in the forest, the guards refused to give us the keys. Panther sighting has become an everyday affair and most of the times the guards are busy entertaining people on panther safari in the forest at night," said Chinmay Mc Massey, founder & secretary, Sariska Tiger Conservation Organisation (STCO), who had faced problems releasing the Golden Jackal in the forest.
Spread over 24 sq km in the east of Jaipur, Jhalana forest houses about 10 panthers. Located now in the heart of the city, with no regulations, the forest is a free-for-all site for panther sighting. While the official time for the forest department to close the gates is 1800 hrs, sources confirm that several vehicles stay in the park till late night. There is no official permit by the forest department as night safari is not allowed anywhere, no entry charges and no night patrolling by the guards in the forest.
"Earlier there were fewer vehicles but now the word has spread and a lot more people can be seen in the park in the late hours. Not adhering to any rules they get down from the cars, point flashlights on the panthers, chase them for photographs and eat and drink in the forest," said a wildlife enthusiast.
"There is too much human interference in the forest. There was a small temple first but now large-scale construction is going on in the forest. Once we had gone to leave a raptor at night as releasing them in the wild depends on their species and the guard harassed us over giving the keys. We waited for a long time and later got to know that people who had gone inside the forest on a safari had carried the keys with them. This is becoming very frequent now," said Tanya from Raksha, a city-based NGO.
When spoken to Rahul Kumar, principal chief conservator of forests, (PCCF), said, "Night safari is not permitted. The park closes at sunset and I'm not aware of any night safari in Jhalana. But I will look into it and enquire."