Tour operators, activists sceptical of SC order

Tour operators, activists sceptical of SC order

The Supreme Court order banning tourism from core areas of tiger reserves may bring down curtains on the roaring tourism business in parks like Ranathambore and Bandhavgarh.

But it will not contribute much in tiger conservation by killing the source of revenue generation at the local level, claim conservationists and tour operators.

All of them, however, agree on the need to regulate tourist inflow inside tiger reserves and establish a contiguous stretch of forests so that the big cats can freely move around rather than being cornered to a rather small territory.

“Stopping tourism inside core area is not going to help. It’s not beneficial for tiger protection as your revenue source is lost. Also you rob off a certain amount of independent monitoring.

Tourism in the buffer zone is not a practical idea,” Belinda Wright, executive director of Wildlife Protection Society of India told Deccan Herald.

But former field director of Palamu reserve P K Sen did not agree with Wright, arguing there was little evidence on the ground to prove that tourists helped identify poachers in any national park or tiger reserve.

“The problem is with an elite model of tourism that generates revenue for private parties. The SC order should not take away an ordinary citizen’s chance to see the national animal in its full glory in the jungle,” said M D Madhusudana, a researcher at Nature Conservation Society, Mysore.

The purpose of having tiger reserves is to give a chance to Indian citizens to see the big cats. For instance in Bandipur, the forest department ferries common man in bus to the forests whereas costly safari costs thousands of rupees, he said.

“In many tiger reserves, tigers get surrounded by numerous vehicles each carrying 10-20 people. This clearly should not happen. Also with so many vehicles and people around, lots of plastic and waste material is dumped in the forest, which contaminates the jungle,” said Ravi Chellam, director (research and conservation) at Madras Crocodile Bank and a former scientist of Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.

“In Africa and South America, regulated tourism is used as a conservation tool. Why can’t the same be followed here,” wondered Wright. Jungle lodge owner Govardhan Rathore said that in Ranthambore tourism is already regulated as only 40 vehicles are allowed every day.

Countering the argument, Chellam said: “It will be incorrect to compare India with Africa where laws are implemented more strictly within wildlife reserves and lot of tourism happens in private game parks, meant for tourism.”


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