Five-star tourism won’t save the tiger

Tiger tourism in India and Nepal can only help to protect the species from extinction if it is community-led, said a leading wildlife agency.

Speaking at a Save The Wild Tigers forum in London, Debbie Banks, head of tiger campaigns at the Environment Investigation Agency, said these countries lack tourist products which sufficiently benefit local communities.

"If the people who actually live alongside the tiger owned or had stakes in all these ventures then this might reduce pressure on the tigers," she explained.

"But there is a lot of five-star tourism, with hotels providing swimming pools in drought areas and drawing resources away from local communities, which is not the answer," she warned.

It is estimated that only 3,200 tigers now remain in the wild, with China the principal market for illegal tiger products such as bone, skin, teeth and other body parts.

But Banks said that use in traditional Chinese medicine is no longer the main reason they are hunted.

"The skins are being used to decorate the home, tiger bone wine is given as a prestigious gift. It's not about tradition, it's about luxury and status," she said.

Will Travers, chief executive officer of the Born Free Foundation, called for all captive tigers to be freed from circuses, tourist attractions and 'farms' around the world – estimated at as many as 10,000 tigers. "There are plenty of tigers – but they're in the wrong place," he said.

But Travers was optimistic that the species can be saved from extinction if the right action is taken to stop poaching. "Since the Kenyan government burned its ivory stockpile in 1989, the number of elephants in Kenya has doubled. We can turn things around," he insisted.

The forum was held two weeks after an international summit of world leaders, which saw £208 million pledged to help save the species from extinction.

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