India’s wildlife is stepping into the open as forests stay tourist-free

Our forests are at peace during the lockdown, with animals venturing out due to less vehicle movement

When the lockdown was in full force, an eerie silence fell upon even our busiest cities. Deep in our forests, the situation has been much the same. “There is a cool breeze every morning and evening. With no vehicle movement on forest roads, everything is absolutely still,” says N Naveen Kumar, a Forest Range Officer in Attakatti. “Animals roam freely, since they do not sense vibrations from vehicles on the road,” he adds.

Naveen has been witness to some rather unusual sightings as a result. “I was able to spot animals in broad daylight; I saw the shy jungle fowl, the sighting of which requires luck, by the road.” Birds such as wood pigeons have plucked up the courage to wander along forest roads. “I also saw hare, that usually venture out only when there are no people around. There is visible change. Animals are at ease,” he says.

Around the early 2000s, V Ganesan, who has since retired as Field Director of Anamalai Tiger Reserve, says he saw a panther by the road in Anamalai during the day. “We were closed for a few months for maintenance. Animals can get a sense of what is happening around them; the moment they realised there was no disturbance, they started coming out,” he recalls. “The situation is similar now, since there are no tourists visiting our tiger reserves and sanctuaries.”

Elephants and gaur are also trundling about fearlessly now. Sachin Bhosale, Wildlife Warden, Meghamalai Division, reports spotting them along the Theni – Meghamalai road.