Saturday, May 01, 2010

Tiger tourism in India: the case for and the case against

Tiger tourism in India: the case for and the case against

Tiger tourism in India: the case for

Is tourism good for India’s vanishing tigers? Julian Matthews, chairman of Travel Operators for Tigers, says the decision to ban tiger tourism is misguided.

By Julian Matthews
Published: 8:00AM BST 01 May 2010

Julian Matthews believes the best security for tigers exists in tourism zones

This week, India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority announced that it plans to phase out tourism in its 37 tiger reserves. Here we ask two experts whether the government was right to take such a drastic step to arrest the decline of this endangered species, which now numbers just 1,350 in the whole of the subcontinent.

Julian Matthews, chairman of Travel Operators for Tigers, says:

Having spent many years visiting India’s forests and wildlife parks, I am amazed by the decision of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to cast tourism out of core tiger areas.

These “over-loved” parks have the best habitats and the highest tiger densities. Corbett, the most visited park, still has the highest number of tigers in India (according to the NTCA’s 2008 census). Bandavgarh has the heaviest densities of tigers in its main tourism zone, with five breeding females and 14 cubs, and it receives 45,000 visitors a year.

When sub-adult tigers leave the tourist zone to seek their own ranges in buffer zones, they get “lost” – poached or poisoned. These facts suggest that the best security for tigers exists in tourism zones, and tigers and their prey sense it.

Travel Operators for Tigers (TOFT) estimated that one Ranthambhore tigress generated some $130 million (£90m) in direct tourism revenue in the 10 years of her adult life. Take this away, and the forests will again have no economic value to those living nearby or to local politicians – and they will be sacrificed to farming, mining, industry or logging, as is happening in most unloved forests.

Tourism makes forest personnel highly accountable and generates millions of dollars for conservation. Tiger tourism has the best anti-poaching units, operating vehicles with keen guides eight hours a day. On the borders of parks, tourism offers alternative livelihoods to hundreds, who might now resort to marginal farming, illegal logging, poaching and cattle grazing.

I do not like much of what is happening in tiger tourism today. Too much is poorly planned; there must be better regulation and control – as we have urged.

But let’s not kill the one industry that has the power to restore wildlife. Give the industry the best ground rules by which it can become a tool for conservation, not a soft cover-up for hiding the real reasons for the tiger’s demise – from poaching and the degradation of forests to lack of political and institutional will.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/safariandwildlifeholidays/7656313/Tiger-tourism-in-India-the-case-for.html

Tiger tourism in India: the case against

Is tourism good for India’s vanishing tigers? Justin Francis, managing director of the travel agency Responsibletravel.com, believes the decision to ban tiger tourism is correct.

By Justin Francis
Published: 8:00AM BST 01 May 2010

Francis believes the Indian Government has failed to manage tourism effectively

This week, India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority announced that it plans to phase out tourism in its 37 tiger reserves. Here we ask two experts whether the government was right to take such a drastic step to arrest the decline of this endangered species, which now numbers just 1,350 in the whole of the subcontinent.

Justin Francis, managing director of the travel agency Responsibletravel.com, says:

I have reluctantly concluded that the Indian government’s decision to ban tiger tourism in core conservation areas in the short term is the correct one.

The government’s failure to manage tourism responsibly has, by its own admission, resulted in lodges being built in sensitive habitats; hotels blocking corridors tigers follow between conservation areas; and unregulated viewing, which has disturbed tigers.

Despite the excellent work done by responsible tour operators and lodges to support conservation, tourism has damaged tiger populations.

My reluctance in agreeing with the ban stems from my belief that in the long term conservation works only when it is done in partnership with local communities who live around parks and with whom we need to work to reduce poaching and damage to tiger habitats through gathering of firewood, cattle grazing etc.

Tourists will be deprived of one of wildlife’s great sights; but local communities involved in tourism will also be deprived of livelihoods and economic incentives for tiger conservation.

Over the longer term, I don’t believe that it will be practical to protect park boundaries from encroachment by impoverished local people if they see no benefit from wildlife conservation. The Indian government will need to create alternative livelihoods for communities previously involved with tiger tourism.

Some will argue that India should stamp out destructive tourism and retain responsible tourism. I agree – but this has been widely advocated for the past 20 years and the government cannot manage it. We don’t have the luxury of time to try to reorganise tourism – tigers may be extinct within five years. Let’s hope that better regulated, responsible tiger tourism can return when numbers have improved. Tourists, too, have a critical role to play, and must ask tougher questions of tour operators and lodges regarding their commitments to conservation and community development.

This is a seminal moment in the history of ecotourism. Other destinations and countries need to take note to avoid similar results.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/safariandwildlifeholidays/7656603/Tiger-tourism-in-India-the-case-against.html

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/

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