Thursday, July 26, 2012

Indian Supreme Court bans tourism in tiger parks

India is home to over half the world’s tiger population, with most living in reserves. Hundreds of hotels and shops operate inside the tiger reserves to cater for tourists drawn to these spectacular animals. Over 40 tiger reserves have been affected by the ban.
The court said that the ban was temporary, pending its final judgement (22 August) on a case filed by wildlife activist, Ajay Dube. He had complained to the court that authorities in several states had allowed the development of hotels, resorts and shops in the core areas of the forest reserves. Ajay Dube told the court that critical tiger habitats should be kept safe from all types of human disturbance, including tourism.
Julian Matthews, Chairman of Travel Operators for Tigers, a not for profit wildlife association based in Delhi, said: “We are devastated with [the] Supreme Court’s decision and will file for a review of petition in the interest of the forests of India, conservation of the tiger population and livelihoods of many bordering forest communities.”
Continuing, he added: “We are perplexed that the Supreme Court has chosen to disregard the clear evidence that proves that wildlife tourism within India Tiger Parks is not harming tigers. The highest densities of tigers can be found today in the most heavily visited tiger reserves including Corbett, Kaziranga and Bandhavgarh.”
Paul Goldstein from Exodus, who has guided hundreds of people to see tigers in the wild and has personally raised over £100,000 for various sustainable projects in Bandhavgarh NP, says: "You cannot argue with statistics: where there are tourists, there are tigers, where the tourists have gone, like Panna and Sariska there are none. It is the same for any wildlife park in the world. Tourists have eyes, they scare away the poachers; rare animals need them. The Indian government should be ashamed. It is due to their own corruption and rampant incompetence at not dealing with the demands of Chinese medicine that tigers are suffering. To cover up their own inadequacies a few ministers have dreamed up this garbage then peddled the murky bilge through their own parliament.
"If this goes through tigers will be wiped out in India in five years maximum. One female tigress can gain a park as much as $80m in revenue. Now there will be no money, the villages around the parks will become ghost towns; what tigers that remain will be butchered quickly.
"When I think of the saints and samaritans that have given up their lives to help save this magnificent creature it makes me incandescent. Pretty soon these ministers will have blood on their hands, not just tiger's blood but also the thousands of people that will become destitute because of the lack of income. This is the final bent, rusty and infected nail in this animal's coffin. No-one is going to travel half way across India to trawl around in a dusty buffer zone, I won't, nor will any clients – that's thousands of dollars gone already.
"This is the most absurd piece of legislation ever. Tigers have just about everything against them, tourists are their only valuable ally, now it seems they must become their foe too."
The ban on hotels in the core areas of the country's tiger reserves will hit the travel plans of hundreds of visitors, hoping to glimpse a tiger. Those affected will have to move to hotels outside the reserves. If you are booked to travel to one of the affected areas, speak to your tour operator.

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