Located on the outskirts of Bangalore, Bannerghatta National Park promises a retreat from the chaotic city life, a rendezvous with nature. It boasts of 25,000 acres of zoological park that includes a Tiger and Lion Reserve, a Butterfly Park and a zoo. Owing to the close proximity to the IT capital of India, it has emerged as a very popular tourist attraction. One of the main attractions is the Grand Safari conducted by KSTDC which includes lion, bear and tiger safari and lasts for one hour.
I recently had an opportunity to try the Grand Safari and will say I am disappointed. I really felt sad at the sorry state of the animals. At the onset, I had imagined the animals in a more natural habitat while the safari progressed in a caged vehicle (that's how I would describe the mesh covered mini-bus that took us through the safari). But it seemed more like a big zoo with wider enclosures. The animals seem more domesticated than wild. There is no thrill or adventure that you normally expect from a jungle safari.
It may have been the wrong time of the year (summer is quite unforgiving in India), but the first thing I noticed was the predominantly brown landscape. In the herbivore enclosure, the deers were feeding on cut grass provided by the park attendants. The bears looked quite lost walking along the barbed wire fence with the unrelenting sun bearing down mercilessly. The only available refuge in the vicinity were small buildings made of brick and mortar like you see in a zoo. The lions looked forlorn in the receding shades of trees stripped bare of its foliage. A white tiger was lying in one of the small pools of water in a desperate bid to cool off the heat. But with such low level of water, I wouldn't be surprised if the water became boiling hot in sometime.
The park attendants in the safari vehicle seemed courteous and waited for everyone to take pictures of the animals. But at times, I felt, they were a bit too obliging. On one occasion, the driver parked the bus next to a bear and started calling out to it loudly so that it may give a better pose for the photographers. No one in the safari seemed to mind this. Instead, everyone seemed more excited at the opportunity to click more pictures. It was sad to see the animals didn't exhibit any of their natural instincts. These animals are in a rather sorry state, reduced to mere performers put on a show for entertaining the visitors.
We event went on a stroll through the zoo and found it over-crowded with visitors. The whole place had an aura of ill-maintenance. The cages were not very well-kept and the animals didn't look much healthy.
Well-connected by bus services, even air-conditioned Volvo buses, that ply between the city of Bangalore and the park, the park seems to be doing well with huge number of daily visitors. However, major improvements are needed in maintenance of the zoo as well as providing a better and more natural habitat to the animals in the reserves. The wilderness may just help them get back their missing wild side.