Mumbai: SGNP tigers should roam freely and not in cages, says activists

Animal activists and visitors to the national park requested that SGNP authorities allow tigers to roam freely in the tiger safari, since seeing the big cats in the open is the main attraction

Anyone who has ever been on a safari will say that the true thrill of it lies in seeing a wild animal in all its glory, free in its natural habitat.

Visitors said that when the tigers are kept in enclosures, the experience of a safari doesn’t come through, and it feels more like a visit to the zoo
Visitors said that when the tigers are kept in enclosures, the experience of a safari doesn’t come through, and it feels more like a visit to the zoo

And that was what Navi Mumbai resident, Munna Yadav was looking forward to when he signed up for the tiger safari at Sanjay Gandhi National Park a week ago, but found to his disappointment that the only tigers in the safari were locked up behind cages. During the visit, Yadav saw a lion roaming free in the lion safari, whereas in the tiger safari, two tigers (one a white tiger) were kept in secondary cages, or large fenced enclosures.

Yadav told mid-day, “It was my first visit to SGNP and I was excited about seeing the tigers roaming freely in the safari, but I was shocked to see that the tigers were kept in a secondary cage. If, lions can be released in the safari then why is the same practice not used for tigers?”

“People who buy tickets for the safari are under impression that they will see a tiger roaming freely but then they see it in the secondary cage. I think the authorities should stop fooling people. Even though the secondary cages are properly maintained and have enough space for the animals to move, the visitors get an impression of seeing the animal in a zoo and not on a safari,” he added.

Dismayed, Yadav contacted the Plant & Animals Welfare Society (PAWS), after which Mumbai activists Abhijeet Rane and Sunish Subramanian Kanju met the additional principal chief conservator of forests (western region), Suresh Thorat and SGNP field director Vikas Gupta, to request them to release tigers in the park safari. The NGO also wrote to the SGNP director on the matter.

“We were happy to see the way lions were released in the safari and so we have requested authorities that they should not keep tigers in secondary cages. The authorities told us that maintenance work is currently in progress at the safari grounds, after which the tigers will be released.” Despite repeated attempts to contact the authorities, SGNP field director Vikas Gupta was unavailable for comment.

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