All national parks, zoological gardens and ecotourism destinations in Bengal, which were shut in March after the COVID-19 pandemic struck, will reopen for visitors from September 23, a notification said on Friday. According to the forest department, visitors will be allowed at its "various establishments", where necessary safety protocols have been put in place.
"The effect of the pandemic is still being felt, but in view of the gradual unlocking and the need to restart economic activities… it has been decided to allow public to various establishments of the forest department with appropriate restrictions," the notification said. Bookings have to be made online, and tourists would have to undergo temperature check at the entry points.
Elephant safari at sanctuaries will continue to remain suspended for the time being. In zoological gardens and parks, not more than 30 percent of the total visitor capacity will be allowed inside cafeterias. They will be advised not to touch barricades and handrails, the forest department notification said.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Ravikant Sinha said the decision to open zoos and sanctuaries was taken at a meeting chaired by Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee. The guidelines were announced on Friday following consultations with the health department and medical experts, Sinha explained.
Bengal has 12 zoological parks, 15 wildlife sanctuaries, six national parks and two elephant res erves.