Responsible Tourism in the Barnawapara Landscape

A unique programme to introduce Social Media Influencers to responsible tourism was organized by Tribe Well Society, Moira Conservation Society and Rewilded. Thirty Youtubers with a total of approximately 1 crore followers between them, who create content on food, tribes, culture, travel, etc. were invited for the programme.

On the first day, the influencers camped near the Jonk river. On their way to the camp site, they sighted a pair of Open-billed storks, and a Pied kingfisher dashing through the Valley with the emerald river flowing below. The call of Pied Hornbills brought everyone’s attention to the valley on the other side of the river. On a fig tree sat a pied hornbill and flew to the farther side, leaving all the participants craving for another glimpse! Many of the influencers admitted to having observed a bird this carefully for the first time in their life.

On their way to the camp site, the participants sighted a pair of Open-billed storks, and a Pied kingfisher dashing through the Valley with the emerald river flowing below.

After a briefing by senior naturalist Mr. Akhilesh Bharos, who informed participants about certain rules to follow, participants headed off to the camping site. The Tribewell team greeted us with a hot cup of tea. By the time pakoras arrived, the bonfire was ready and everyone introduced themselves. The participants were from across the state, from north in Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh to Jagdalpur in the south. The participants bonded over stories, experiences of wildlife, tea and Pakoras. Each one of the participants was asked to affix a wild animal or bird’s name in front of their names. This put their knowledge of wildlife to test. As dusk turned into night, the participants – tired from their journeys to Barawapara – had a simple dinner cooked by nearby tribes and headed to their tents. 

Kush talking about the rules to follow on a nature walk

From the evening session to dinner, many of the first timers had already started appreciating the nature and wildlife around them. A few of them were very curious to know more about the nocturnal wildlife and the denizens of the forest around. A sense of responsibility prevailed in the minds of the participants as we discussed the behaviour of the Tawny Fish Owl and Wood Owl that hooted continuously from across the river. It is in moments like these when humans let go of their idea of being the centre of the world that they appreciate other life forms around them. To discard that idea is not so easy. Some continued to sing songs near the bonfire disturbing fellow humans and wildlife around.

Day 2 started with an early morning nature walk in the nearby forest. The simple rules of a forest walk were mentioned by Kush who led the participants. By the time they started moving towards the forest, participants were already introduced to riverine species of trees like Arjun (T. arjuna), Jamun (S. cumini), Saccharum grass and Ficus species.


In the forests, the difference between Langur and Rhesus macaque were discussed. Trees like Terminalia tomentosa, Schleichera oleosa and D. melanoxylon were identified and their significance discussed. After a small walk, the participants reached a deserted village. Here topics like relocation of villages, human-wildlife conflict and laws, and a wide variety of issues revolving around Jal, Jungle, Jameen were discussed.

We met the participants again on the 4th day at Moira Resort in Barnawapara. Here the participants were asked to do small skits on themes like Shikar, Forest Office, Tourism and Villagers. The efforts put in a short time and the creativity of the participants was a sight to watch. A Wood owl kept flying stealthily from one tree to another in the campus as we discussed more issues around Responsible tourism and using Social Media and Youtube as a way to influence more people towards conservation and eco-tourism.

On the 5th day, we set off early in the morning for a nature walk near the park gate. Issues like problems in forest administration, poaching, and plantations, were discussed. As we climbed on the bunds of a waterbody, a flock of Yellow-footed Green pigeons sat on a nearby fig tree while cormorants basked on fallen logs in the waterbody. The participants reached a nearby stream and were asked to turn all gadgets off and listen to the sound of the bird calls. A two-minute forest therapy session along a small stream with kingfishers, barbets, green pigeons and many small birds like white-eyes, and prinias helped everyone appreciate the beauty of nature.

Briefing by Mr Akhilesh Bharos

After a good breakfast of Poha and Chhole, a brief presentation on Ethics in Wildlife was given by Kush, who discussed issue like ethics in filming birds and animals, use of drones, why feeding wildlife is wrong, and the importance of responsible tourism in conservation.

 

The participants were then asked to share their experience. All of them committed to spreading the word about conservation through their social media channels and to act in responsibly around wildlife. They also made a commitment to never feed wildlife or disturb a natural surrounding in any manner.

 

Conservation is Communication. With information being readily consumed by the masses on social media platforms like YouTube and Instagram, it is important that the right message about conservation and responsible tourism is disseminated. An interaction with Social Media influencers was a step in this direction.


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