India tightens tiger tourism
Some access reduced as government blames visitors for decline
16/06/2009 Indian tigers
The Indian government has announced an initiative to reduce tourist access to so-called ‘core areas’ of its tiger reserves.
These core areas, which include breeding grounds, are not on many tour operators’ itineraries. Tourists will be restricted to so-called buffer zones on the edges of the reserves.
Sab Prakash Yadav, joint director of the state-run National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), was quoted in The Sunday Times newspaper as saying: “When an undisturbed area is allowed, that will provide a better climate and environment for female breeding tigers.”
However the Indian government has come in for heavy criticism of its declaration that increased tourist numbers are to blame for the decline in the country’s tiger population.
The NTCA say tiger numbers have fallen from 3,642 in 2002 to just 1,411 last year due to tourism.
“Tourism creates a disturbance through vehicles, noise pollution, garbage and the need to provide facilities,” the NCTA’s Sab Prakash Yadav said.
In response, the conservation group Travel Operators for Tigers (TOFT) issued a statement saying: “It is completely obvious to us (and anyone who does not believe the dogma from Government) that wildlife tourism is one of the key reasons why most well known parks still have tigers in them, and most often the densest numbers of tigers are within the Tourism Zones”.
TOFT blames “grazers, woodchoppers and poachers” for the drop in tiger numbers.
Some tour operators believe the government’s decision will potentially reduce the number of visitors to the reserves. They’re also concerned that fewer tourists in certain areas will make it easier for poachers to hunt tigers, suggesting that the presence of tourists acts a shield against illegal hunting.