Nonai, the pet elephant that will be used for the forest rides, at the Buxa reserve. Picture by Anirban Choudhury
Alipurduar, Oct. 10: Tourists visiting Buxa this winter will be able to enjoy elephant rides to be introduced in the tiger reserve for the first time.
Foresters said Nonai (a pet elephant) has been selected for the rides and a senior mahout from Jaldapara sanctuary will train the animal.
“I hope from December tourists visiting the Buxa tiger reserve will be able to enjoy the rides that will be an added attraction. Initially, we will start with one elephant then on the basis of the demand we will think about introducing more animals for the rides,” S.S. Bist, the managing director of forest development corporation, West Bengal, said.
He added that the chief wildlife warden has already got the permission to introduce the rides.
“The tourists, however, will not be taken into the core areas,” Bist said.
Officials said during the hour-long trips visitors would be taken to the watchtowers at 22nd Mile and 25th Mile.
Initially, there would be two safaris a day and four persons would be allowed each time.
According to foresters, Nonai will be taken to Jaldapara where it will be trained along with other kunkis (pet elephants) before it starts the forest rides.
The 19-year-old kunki was on forest duty at Cheko beat of the reserve, but it was taken off duty almost a year ago.
Deputy field director of the Buxa tiger reserve (west), Rajendra Jakhar, said: “This is the first time that elephant rides are going to be introduced in the forest and we have given permission to the corporation to use Nonai for the rides. The animal will be taken to Jaldapara for a training in the presence of other kunkis. When the rides start, the animal will be kept at Rajabhatkhawa because most of the tourists stay in different lodges in that area.”
Jakhar said loud noises in the forest scared Nonai. The training will help the animal overcome this problem.
He added that the forest development corporation is also planning to organise workshops for mahouts so that they can take care of the animals in a better way.
Officials said the rates of the elephant rides have not been fixed yet.
According to a tour operator in Jainti, after car safaris were stopped in the tiger reserve last year, the inflow of visitors had decreased.
The elephant rides are expected to attract more tourists.
Currently, elephant rides are conducted in Jaldapara sanctuary and Gorumara National Park where each person has to pay Rs 300 for an hour-long trip.