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If you were planning to travel to a national park or wildlife sanctuary to escape the second wave of this pandemic, you may have to shelve your plan.
There’s some bad news coming in for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers across the country.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, has decided to shut all national parks and sanctuaries in the country with immediate effect due to the alarming spread of COVID-19 cases.
The order also mentions that there have been reports of some lions dying due to the virus, due to which the ministry feels that the virus also poses a major threat to animals living in these spaces.
In order to prevent transmission of the deadly virus from humans to animals and vice-versa, the states and union territories have been ordered to close all national parks, sanctuaries and other protected areas to tourists.
In an order signed by Rakesh Kumar Jagenia, Deputy Inspector General of Forest (Wildlife), the Chief Wild Life Wardens of all states and union territories have been advised on containment and management of COVID-19 and have been asked to reduce human-wildlife interface.
“There are reports of transmission from both symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers (human beings) of the disease and COVID-19 affected persons may or may not exhibit symptoms, field functionaries must be COVID-19 negative when they are deputed for duty and should follow COVID appropriate behavior such as maintaining social distancing, wearing of masks, proper screening, regular sanitization etc,” the order mentions.
Wildlife wardens have been advised to constitute a rapid action task force with field managers, veterinary doctors and frontline staff to manage the situation as quickly as possible. They have also been told to create a round-the-clock reporting mechanism with a nodal officer for swift management of any cases noticed.
The order, dated April 30, advises officials to set up essential services for emergency treatment of animals and their safe release back to their natural habitats, as and when required.
Officials have been asked to enhance disease surveillance, mapping and monitoring system through coordinated effort amongst various departments.
The Director General of Forest has asked the wildlife wardens to maintain all other stipulations issued by the Health Ministry in the movement of staff and villagers in and around national parks and sanctuaries and other protected areas.
They have also been told to take other possible steps to control the spread of the deadly virus and report the action taken in this regard to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
National parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the country were closed for visitors during the pandemic-induced lockdown in 2020 as well. The decision had a huge impact on the wildlife tourism ecosystem of the country.
However, when the national parks and sanctuaries were reopened after the lockdown, visitors to popular wildlife havens like Ranthambore and Tadoba had reported some incredible tiger sightings.
Let’s hope that wildlife lovers will once again get to witness similar sightings and enjoy the thrill of a safari. Till then, we suggest, you should read a book or two on wildlife to make the most of your quarantine.
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