The Sanjay Gandhi National Park at Borivali, as part of its Rs 5-crore five-year scheme to promote eco-tourism in Mumbai, is displaying two of its newly acquired yellow Bengal tigers on its tiger safari trails.
So, if you take a trip now, in SGNP’s well-secured mini-bus, chances are you will find a full-grown, wild yellow tiger burning bright in a water-hole less than one metre away from you. The tiger couple -- a male called Palash and a female called Basanti –- was acquired from the Vanvihar National Park, Bhopal, in exchange for two white tiger cubs, about one-and-a-half years ago. A third yellow tiger named Shiva was confiscated from a circus in Kankvli, Konkan region, said Dr Kishor Batwe, wildlife veterinarian of SGNP.
Range forest officer D L Rathod added that the tiger couple was let out last week after an entire year of rigourous training and conditioning to ensure that they are fit for display.
The national park now has nine tigers – six white and three yellow – in its premises. Batwe said: "Since 1998, the SGNP has been having safaris in the park but in a low-key manner. Till recently, we only had white tigers on display but these species are not the 'real' species as most of them are born in captivity. Unlike the yellow tigers that are born to be wild, white tigers can't survive in the jungle. One striking evidence to this is the lack of camouflage – due to the stark white colour, the white tiger can't blend into its ambience."
Batwe stated that in an effort to introduce a new attraction to the people they decided to acquire the Bengal tigers.
According to the doctor, training of the tigers is a complicated process that requires time and patience. "Initially, we used to have nine separate cages of 10 ft x12 ft for each tiger and one open area for the safari bus to ply on. We have now built larger secondary cages and two tertiary cages where the tigers can be released to acquaint them to the visitors' buses. When they learn to relax in the presence of visitors, we will let them into the open area," he said, adding that yellow tigers are now ready to be released here.
The annual budget allocated for eco-tourism is Rs 1.37 crore, which will be spent on updating several activities in the park, Conservator of Forest Dr P N Munde said.
"The budget includes maintenance of the park, upgradation of the information centre, documentations among other operations," he explained. The park officials added that they are also upgrading the deer park as a major attraction.
Range officer Rathod, who handles the lion and tiger safari in the park, added: "Aside from the Bengal tiger, we also have six lions, three males and three females in the park." Each animal consumes about 10 kg of beef every day, the officials added.