Kendrapara, Oct 18 (LocalWire): The Bhitarkanika National Park has been reopened to tourists from today, officials said.
The national park, known as India’s second largest mangrove forest after the Sundarbans in West Bengal, is a major tourist attraction in the state.
500 tourists per day will be allowed to visit the national park, for which people can purchase tickets from the authorized website, or physically from the counters.
The park had been closed for visitors from May 1 to July 31, during the mating and nesting seasons of the saltwater crocodiles.
However, the closure was extended up to October 18 due to COVID-19.
“The park was partially reopened on Oct 1 for visitors who booked a stay at night in the Dangamal Nature Camp within the park,” said Bikash Ranjan Dash, the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of the park.
Visitors will have to maintain and follow COVID-19 norms, such as maintaining social distancing and using masks.
An adequate number of guards have been deployed inside the forest to enforce the regulations, he added.
Sanitisers have been placed at several places in the forest.
We renovated guest houses, roads and other infrastructures recently in the park.
Large numbers of tourists from West Bengal and other states visit Bhitarkanika during the Puja holiday, added the forest officer.
Eco- tourism in Bhitarkanika is a big employment generator and has a multiplier impact on the economy as it is a major contributor to employment creation particularly for women and youths, fishermen, boat men and others.
It can lead to the reduction of poverty and to the promotion of socio-economic development and work, added the forest officer.
We counted 103 crocodile nests during this year’s nesting season of the reptiles in the park and its nearby areas.
Around 3000 baby crocodiles were born in Bhitarkanika recently from the nests, he said.
Recognized as the biggest salt-water crocodile conservation success story in the country, relentless efforts put in by the authorities have witnessed the increase of crocodile in Bhitarkanika from just about 97 in 1974 to 1757 crocodiles as found in the census conducted in January 2020, added the forest officer.
Large numbers of local birds have already arrived in Bhitarkanika for nesting and the tourists can also enjoy the park ’s abundant bird life.
We have also allowed private tour and travel companies to establish their tents for the tourists in Bhitarkanika, added the forest officer.