Are Chopper Services Scaring Away Wildlife in India’s Kedarnath?

Chopper services to one of Hinduism’s holiest hill shrines in northern India may be scaring away wildlife from Kedarnath wildlife reserve in Uttarakhand state, according to news reports.

The reports base themselves on anecdotal evidence of animal sightings that are becoming few and far between in the area famous for species including the Himalayan Serow.

As reported by the Hill Post: 

“While Uttarakhand may swear for its love of wildlife by the Corbett National Park, but a grim reality is that many species, some on schedule one and on the verge of being extinct, are moving out of their natural habitat in the Kedarnath Wildlife Vihar of this small mountain state and may be falling prey to poachers.

“The reason is the chopper services that were started for the Kedarnath shrine go above the Wildlife Vihar and their sound not only disturbs but scares the wildlife which have never been used to such high decibel noise. It is also alleged that the choppers at times fly very low over the forest which only adds to the woes of the panic stricken animals, forcing them to take shelter elsewhere.

“According to report appearing in a regional daily, the wildlife staff of the Vihar found that after the helicopter services were started for Kedarnath, animals that were regularly seen by them started slowly becoming hard to find. The reason was that because of the noise they were moving out of that particular forest division and trying to relocate elsewhere.

“The report states, which is the grim or rather sad part, that the deputy wildlife warden of the Kedarnath Forest division sent his report to the Chief Wildlife Warden of Uttarakhand on 22 May 2013 in which he categorically mentioned this fact that chopper services that had been started from Kedarnath had become a nightmare for the wildlife in the region.

“Rather than taking punitive action in the matter and sending a report to the state government that the choppers may be asked to take an alternative route to the revered shrine and not overfly the particular forest stretch because of the problems that they were creating fro the wildlife, the report that was sent was conveniently put to gather dust while the choppers continue on their sorties, ferrying pilgrims and the animals continue to run helter skelter.

“The deputy conservator who sent the report to the state government feels, and perhaps rightly so, that he has sent his report and it was now up to the concerned authorities to take corrective action. Obviously one could not expect the officer to take upon the chopper companies, who enjoy the patronage of the high profile government officers in the name of tourism.”