file plans for protective buffer zones around the parks.
Banning tourists is not the solution, critics say. Vehicle traffic, whether by tourists or forest rangers, provides more eyes and ears against poachers who slaughter wildlife for body parts, which command high prices in China for use in traditional medicine and aphrodisiacs.
Until the ban, for instance, the Ranthambhore park limited tourist vehicles to 80 a day and levied a tax to help fund forest patrols. Residents who worked in the tourism business say the proof is in the numbers: In 2005-06, the park had 26 tigers. Despite more tourism, the population is now 53, including at least 25 cubs. Tourism also gives residents a stake in tiger preservation, the critics say, provided hotels don’t block corridors linking wildlife sanctuaries. Many villagers who were kicked off their land to create the reserves were promised tourism jobs and could grow resentful, leading to more poaching and social unrest.
Others point to poor management by the government agencies meant to protect the animals.
“I think history has shown you can’t keep protection of tiger reserves entirely up to the forestry department,” said Belinda Wright, executive director of New Delhi’s Wildlife Protection Society of India. “Many, many Indian reserves are virtually empty of tigers, often with virtually no tourism. Tourists offer an extra degree of protection.”
Some say the real reason for the court’s decision was pique.
Tiger reserves are supposed to have a core area that no one but forestry officials enter, surrounded by buffer land that can