Tourist footfall on the rise at Bhitarkanika National Park

Kendrapara: The Bhitarkanika National Park here has registered a rise in number of visitors last month and authorities at the sanctuary are hopeful of a steady footfall in the coming days.

After remaining out of bounds for three months in view of the nesting season of crocodiles, the park reopened on August 1, much to the delight of the tourists, said Bimal Prasanna Acharya, the divisional forest officer of Rajnagar Mangrove (wildlife) Forest Division.

“More than 1,900 tourists had made their way to the park in August, which is considered an off-season. In 2017, around the same time, the footfall did not exceed 1000. We are quite delighted to see this impressive inflow of tourists, despite inclement weather,” he said.

The annual tourist footfall to the three protected zones in the district – Bhitarkanika National Park, Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary and Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary – is usually around one lakh.

“The sanctuary authorities are expecting a rise in numbers over the next four months – considered peak season for Bhitarakanika. The improved infrastructure at the park could be one of the reasons behind the increase in visitors’ inflow,” Acharya observed

The accommodation facilities at the park have improved with the opening of eight new and well-furnished suites at Dangmal forest bungalow, inside the core area of the national park, an official at the park said.

“Tourists can visit the forest department’s website and book rooms online. The jetty at Gupti, inside the sanctuary, has also been refurbished for ease and comfort of tourists, who wish to go on boat rides,” he said.

The national park is home to leopard, wild boar, jungle cat, hyena, sambar, gangetic dolphins among other animal species.

The wetland also houses 70 per cent of India’s estuarine crocodile or saltwater crocodiles, the conservation of which was started way back in 1975.

The Gahirmatha Island is one of the preferred nesting locations for the endangered Olive Ridley turtles

“We strive to ensure safe and comfortable sojourn of visitors who throng the park every year in large numbers. As part of the precautionary measures, the tourists are told to furnish identity proofs to seek entry into the national park,” the official added.