By Dincy Mariyam

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We are waiting for the pandemic to subside to go out and enjoy our lives as usual. While some of us have managed to go outside at last, there are several of us still stuck at home. Those of you stuck at home are probably making a long list of places to visit after the pandemic. Does this include wilderness? Have you been to a national park or a wildlife sanctuary or any nature/wildlife reserve before? Were you a responsible tourist then? If not, here is how you can be a responsible tourist:

If you are visiting a wildlife sanctuary or a national park,

1) Refrain from harming/teasing plants and animals during a safari or a nature walk. Animals are usually calm but if they are bothered then they will respond. Respect their space and you shall be respected too. Try to observe them from a distance, whether you are inside a national park or in your backyard.

2) Maintain silence if you are on a safari inside a cantor, gypsy, jeep or a bus. Avoid talking on the phone and tell your friends and family the same. Also refrain from flash photography as it can disturb animals.

3) Some of you may have perhaps noticed this sign before which says “Do not feed wild animals”. Never assume an animal is looking for food from you. If you give them food, they will have difficulty finding food when there are no tourists. They may even venture out to human settlements in search of food that they are familiar with. This could create problems for both humans as well as wildlife.

4) Do not litter while inside a wild space. The waste that you throw mindlessly can cause harm to an animal if they consume it. Remember that the forest is their home, and just as you would never dirty a fellow human’s home, you owe it to our wildlife to keep their homes clean as well. You are a visitor, after all. So keep your trash inside your backpack and put in a trashcan after your safari is over.

5) Visit the nature interpretation centres/museums/botanical gardens if they have one to know more about the animals and plant the place host.  Safaris and visits to the zoo are great ways to learn about the wonderful wildlife of our planet and country. Most people working in protected parks and zoos are more than happy to teach you about the plants and animals that you will see, so don’t hesitate to ask questions and learn more!

While the list doesn’t end here, these are some of the important things you should keep in mind in your next visit to a wild place. Now go on out there (with your mask and sanitizer, of course!) and have a wonderful time at your next safari. Enjoy these wild places and the species that call them home.

About the Author:

Dincy Mariyam is a doctoral student at the Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bengaluru. While her weekdays pass in a blur of research in the concrete jungle, she tries to spend her weekends escaping to the real jungles and wild places with her trusty binoculars and camera.

About the Artist:

Popularly known for his cartoons under the banner “Green Humour,” Rohan Chakravarty is a full-time conservation cartoonist hailing from India’s tiger capital, Nagpur. His work features regularly in mainstream Indian print and digital media.