No More Tiger Tours
A jeep ride to have a glimpse of a tiger deep inside Corbett or Ranthambore or Kanha tiger reserves may become history if the Supreme Court accepts the government’s argument that tourism needs to be shifted out of the core areas to fringe and buffer zones to protect the big cat from adverse impact of human interference.
In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has said that “core critical tiger habitats” have to be kept inviolate and only management interventions can be allowed by the state governments in the said area.
“In such areas if tourism activity are taking place, they are required to be phased out in the fringe/buffer zones,” the NTCA, the statutory body mandated to provide safe habitat to 1,706 tigers in 40 tiger reserves, has told the court. The NTCA has declared core areas as “inviolate” from any human interference.
In most of the tiger reserves, tourists are allowed inside the core tiger critical areas without adequate regulation, creating nuisance for tigers. A recent Wildlife Institute of India report had said that most of 1,706 tigers were in the core areas that are the best habitat for big cats to survive, if human intervention can be minimised.
“Human living in tiger reserves pose the biggest danger not the tourism,” said Belinda Wright of Wildlife Protection Society of India, who owns a lodge in Kanha tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh, at a press conference organized by Travel Operators for Tigers before the hearing in the case on Wednesday.
At least two tigers have been killed by vehicles used by tourists in Bandhavgarh tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh in the last few years. Prerna Singh Bindra, wildlife conservationist said in her report on Corbett that the tourism inside the core tiger area was unsustainable and lodges have blocked the corridor used by tigers to move from the park to Ramnagar forest division and vice-versa. Lodges have been constructed in the buffer zone of Ramthambore tiger reserve and Periyar tiger reserve in Kerala.
The travel operators brought a tribal, Sansai Baigai from Kanha, to claim that they have financially benefited from tiger tourism even though the operators had opposed settlement of their traditional rights in tiger reserves. “I am not in favour of Forest Rights Act in protected areas,” Wright said, while the operators failed to inform about the revenue shared by them with the local communities.
NTCA’s affidavit quotes Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 to say that core areas in protected areas have to be kept inviolate for purpose of tiger conservation without affecting the rights of tribals or forest dwellers.
The world “inviolate” means without any disturbance by human beings and each tiger reserve should have inviolate space of 800-1,200 sq kms for a viable population. The tour operators claimed the NTCA decision, if upheld by the Supreme Court, will harm the tigers than benefiting them.