The Indian Supreme Court has extended the ban on tourism in core tiger reserves until September 27th.
In the meantime, the Indian central government has been asked by the court to work with states and stakeholders (namely tour operators, hotels, and guides) to develop new guidelines on ecotourism in the tiger reserves.
The traditional start of the peak tourist season is October 1st. The current ban affects more than 40 tiger reserves.
The Travel Operators’ for Tigers, an organization dedicated to responsible travel, said in a press release, “If nothing else, the ban has been an effective catalyst for everyone to debate the issues associated with wildlife tourism and conservation practices, and help bring it to much needed national attention – and action.”
Debate is good. The next month will most likely have many discussions on whether or not tourism deters poaching or can be detrimental to the tigers. There are many examples of each. And there are instances of things going to far. Ajay Dubey, the original petitioner of the ban, believes several Indian states have permitted the construction of hotels and shops inside the reserves, which shouldn’t be allowed.
Hopefully constructive talks will be held, and effective guidelines put in place. The focus must be on how best to protect tigers.
Perhaps the idea of leaving some parks closed to tourism will be on the agenda; maybe it has already been discussed. Leave open some of the most popular and accessible parks, such as Rathambore and Corbett National Parks. Continue the ban in others to see if it makes a difference. And find ways to provide sustainable livelihoods for local peoples.
The battle to save tigers – not only in India but internationally – has not been all that successful, given the continued downward spiral in the number of wild tigers. New approaches need to be undertaken. Education is key, and also ways of making it more valuable to leave the tigers alone than to poach them out of existence.
Passing a Rights of Nature ordinance is another innovative approach. Tigers and other species don’t exist for humans entertainment or use; we are all part of the same web of life and we disturb it at our own risk.