Bhitarkanika National Park closed for tourists

Kendrapara: Bhitarkanika National Park in Kendrapara district was Friday declared closed for tourists in the wake of an attack on its forest staff by a mob in which five persons were injured.

We are forced to close the National Park during the peak tourist season. It would cause inconvenience to tourists.

But we are giving priority to the safety of both staff and visitors", Divisional Forest Officer, Rajnagar Mangrove Forest Officer, Manoj Kumar Mahapatra said.

The attack on the forest staff on Wednesday midnight left at least five forest staff injured.

Eleven persons, including a havildar of state police, have been arrested in connection with the attack, official sources said.

The forest department has also sought armed police deployment at the tourist complex to provide security to ground-level forest personnel.

The abrupt closure has left tourists and travel operators high and dry. Over 500 advance tourist bookings made to the park stood suspended following the closure notice.

An unruly group of people in an inebriated state had manhandled forest personnel who were on duty at the government-run tourists complex at Dangmal in Bhitarkanika National Park.

The trouble-makers, numbering about 16, disturbed the tranquility of the nationally-acclaimed tourist spot.

When forest staff had refused the group from gaining access into the complex, they faced the wrath of the unruly people. Five forest staff on night duty were manhandled.

Later they had forced their way into the tourist complex and forcibly took possession of an occupied suite.