ITAHARI, March 5: February and March is the peak season for international travelers interested in migratory birds and wild water buffaloes at the only wildlife reserve of the nation, KoshiTappu Wildlife Reserve. Tragically, the foreign tourists' arrival in this bird sanctuary has been reduced to zero largely due to the fear over the spread of the coronavirus.
Koshi Tappu Bird Watching Camp wears a deserted look these days with not a single foreign tourist.
''We were compelled to cancel scheduled arrivals of 172 tourists from Sweden, Australia, and Canada'', shared Qurban Mansuri, the operator of this camp in front of the reserve at PaschimKusaha of Koshi Rural Municipality of southern Sunsari. ''European and westerners think that Nepal is susceptible to deadly COVID-19 virus just because we are neighbor to China where this virus originated'', said Mansuri.
With a maximum accommodation capacity of 54 guests per night, Mansuri, however, said his camp would be hosting a minimum of 200 to a maximum of 500 visitors in the peak season of international arrival. ''This year, the number so far has been just around a dozen'', lamented Mansuri.
Similar is the story of Koshi Wildlife Camp. Dr. Hemsagar Baral, the naturalist and also the founder of this camp, said international footfalls had drastically dipped. Baral did not disclose the exact figure.
He however said, ''International tourists mostly from the UK come to our camp in the peak season. But, this time they didn't come.'' Two other popular bird-watching camps like Aqua birds' eco-resort and KoshiTappu Wildlife Camp are also bereft of international travelers.
Established in 1976, KoshiTappu Wildlife Reserve hosts hundreds of migratory birds escaping cold from Europe and Northern Asia during winter season. Bird-lovers from across the world frequent this part of Nepal for crystal clear views of the birds of their liking in and around 176 square kilometers of an area of the only wildlife sanctuary in eastern plains of Nepal.
According to bird-watching camp operators in the vicinity of the reserve, they all together can host around 200 international tourists in a day.
In 2019, a total of 309 international tourists visited KTWR which was less than its previous statistics of 401 in 2018. Total arrival in 2020 is likely to be lesser than 2019, said Jayaram Neupane, a ranger of the reserve who oversees the tourists arrival.
''We are yet to tally our arrival of 2020'', informed Neupane. ''However, it is almost certain that visitors in 2020 will be far lesser than our previous digits just because of coronavirus fears during our peak arrival times of February and March.''