Safari drivers undergo skills training under wildlife expert as Covid-19 takes toll

By: |
August 25, 2021 6:30 PM

With jungle safaris expected to resume again from October, Chikane sees tourism resuming and said the drivers of safari vehicles needed to be equipped with skills they could make use of in case there is another round of lockdown.

wildlife safariEach year, the guides at tiger reserves undergo training so that they can be better hosts to tourists. (File)

Drivers who take out tourists on jungle safaris have a hard task — not only do they steer and stop the vehicles as wildlife travellers remain glued to the guide pointing out the attractions. As a result, the travellers neither notice nor remember the drivers.

Sushil Chikane, Pune-based wildlife expert, has taken up the task to rectify that. He has started a drive to train these drivers in various skills that can range from narration about the wildlife, performing first-aid, to ensuring strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols.

Chikane trained 60 such safari drivers earlier this month at Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. He was joined by fellow experts — Mumbai-based Abhinav Pandey and Avirat Shete from Satna. The project was conducted as a collaboration with the Panna Forest Department and could possibly have been the first such endeavour in the country.

Each year, the guides at tiger reserves undergo training so that they can be better hosts to tourists. However, safari drivers are as much a stakeholder in the parks, and forest departments should also invest in them and their training, Chikane said.

He added several tourists had organised fundraisers for the guides during Covid-19, but very few remembered the drivers, who were also among the hardest hit by the pandemic, Chikane said. He added that the shutdown of wildlife sanctuaries due to Covid-19 hit their livelihood and many safari drivers were now forced to take up jobs as bus or truck drivers. Several villagers had bought cars for the jungle safaris, but had to sell them off being unable to pay the EMI.

With jungle safaris expected to resume again from October, Chikane sees tourism resuming and said the drivers of safari vehicles needed to be equipped with skills they could make use of in case there is another round of lockdown.

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