Updated: August 26, 2021 7:19:22 am
Drivers of jungle safari vehicles have their work cut out — to start, steer and stop the vehicle as the guide points out attractions to wildlife travellers. The result is that they are neither noticed nor remembered by travellers. Pune-based wildlife expert Sushil Chikane has now begun an initiative to train safari drivers in skills ranging from narration about wildlife to performing first-aid to ensuring Covid protocols are followed.
Earlier this month, he trained 60 safari drivers at Panna Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, along with fellow wildlife experts Abhinav Pandey from Mumbai and Avirat Shete from Satna. The project was in collaboration with the Panna forest department and is possibly the country’s first such endeavour.
“‘Each year, safari guides in tiger reserves are trained to host tourists better. But, safari drivers are also valid stakeholders of the park, and we should invest in them and their training. During Covid, a lot of tourists conducted fundraisers for guides but few people remembered the jeep drivers, who are among the hardest hit. The closure of sanctuaries during Covid has impacted their livelihoods, with many safari drivers now operating trucks and buses. Many villagers, who had bought cars for jungle safari, were unable to pay EMI and sold these off,” says Chikane.
“Now that safaris are expected to start in October, tourism should resume and safari drivers need to be equipped to make the most of the opportunity in case there is a third lockdown,” he adds.
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