India Bans Tiger Tourism
India’s world-famous tiger tours may now be just as endangered as the animal itself. The country’s top court has put an indefinite ban on tourism within Indian tiger reserves.
India’s world-famous tiger tours may now be just as endangered as the animal itself. In a move made to protect the threatened species, India’s Supreme Court has put an indefinite ban on tourism within the country’s tiger reserves.
The decision comes in the wake of a case filed by wildlife activist Ajay Dube, alleging that wildlife tourism is harming the tiger’s habitat and breeding ground, and demanding that commercial activity—including tourism—be banned from the core area of tiger reserve forests. The final ruling is to be released August 22.
The court also fined six states 10,000 rupees (C$181) for failing to comply with a previous decision made by the court in April, which required states to identify core and buffer zones within their tiger reserves—part of a move to help regulate where tourist attractions can be located.
India is home to the world’s largest population of tigers, according to the World Wildlife Fund, with an estimated 1,706 of the giant cats living within the country as of 2010. While that’s an increase from the estimated 1,411 in 2007, it’s still a horrific comparison to just one hundred years ago, when India’s tiger population numbered more than 100,000. That’s a drop of 97 percent in just one century, thanks to poaching and habitat encroachment.
Travel+Escape blogger Mariellen Ward went on a tiger safari in Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan in 2011, but didn’t see a single tiger—something she saw as a warning of the animal’s endangered plight.
However, many tour companies have spoken out against the court’s decision, saying that the presence of tourism helps to discourage poachers and wildlife traffickers.
Julian Matthews, chairman of the tourism company Travel Operators for Tigers, issued a statement last week in defence of tiger tourism, saying that tigers are actually safer in reserves that are visited by tourists.
“We are perplexed that the Supreme Court has chosen to disregard the clear evidence that proves that wildlife tourism within India Tiger Parks is not harming tigers,” he said. “The highest densities of tigers can be found today in the most heavily visited Tiger Reserves, including Corbett, Kaziranga and Bandhavgarh. The latest NTCA Tiger census published in March 2011 shows that tiger numbers went up in all these parks—at the same time as tourism numbers have increased significantly.”
The Supreme Court has said the ban is only temporary, and there is expected to be little impact on tourism for now, as it’s monsoon season and many tiger reserves are closed. However, tiger tour operators and tourists heading to India will be eagerly anticipating the final decision on August 22.