Posts Tagged ‘India and tigers’

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.


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Last week, in an effort to protect tigers, the Supreme Court of India passed a ban on tourists and commercial activities in “core” areas of the country’s tiger reserves.

(photo: hellotravel.com)

There is disagreement amongst tiger conservationists and others about the ruling. I’ve come across a couple of articles listing some pros and cons:

Reasons for Restricting Access – tourists disturb tigers, restrict tiger movements, tourist activities are often unchecked, can be noisy, crowd the animals in jeeps when there is a sighting, leave litter behind

Reasons for Not Restricting Access – tourists help keep park activities in check and make it harder for poachers, there have been no reported tiger deaths due to tourism, a majority of poaching incidents have occurred during monsoon season when parks are closed to tourists

A recent Wall Street Journal blog noted that the order could effectively kill tourism in some of India’ major parks, yet others will barely be affected by it.  Specifically, Ranthambore National Park, one of the most well-known parks and which has 31 tigers, would see tourism come to a standstill.  Yet Jim Corbett National Park in northern India, which is much bigger and has a core area already mostly off-limit to tourists, won’t see much affect from the ban. This park has 227 tigers.

Perhaps some of the parks that will be most impacted by the ruling could learn something from how Corbett National Park is managed.  Or maybe a few of the 40 existing tiger reserves could be exempted from the ban on the grounds that it would not only severely restrict tourism but also affect livelihoods.

I see both sides of the argument, but I think the ban is needed and worth trying.  I’m certainly not an expert on tigers or conservation, but given that there are approximately 1,700 wild tigers left in India and maybe only 3,000 total in the world, something needs to be done.

Something also worth exploring as a way to protect tigers is recognizing Rights of Nature in the Indian constitution.  Simply put, this is the recognition that trees, oceans, animals, mountains have rights just as human beings have rights. Rather than treating nature as property under the law, rights of nature acknowledges that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles.

There is precedence for this. Ecuador and Bolivia are the first two nations to have passed a Rights of Nature clause into their state constitutions, and there was a ruling in Ecuador that found in favor of nature.  Others countries, such as the Maldives and Nepal, are exploring the concept.

I’m not sure if there have been any serious discussions in India, but I can’t think of a better country to pass legislation protecting nature. As exciting as it would be to see tigers in the wild, given their precarious state I think our first priority should be to let them be and have a chance to build up their numbers.  This ban may help.  Yet having a law supporting their right to exist would be even better.

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I’m on the road and will be giving a presentation on women’s rights and rights of nature in Montreal later today.  I just came across this headline though and wanted to post the article.   It mentions the ‘people vs. wildlife” situation that we will be hearing more and more about, not just in India.

India seeks $30 million fund to save tigers

TNN | May 16, 2012, 01.47AM IST

NEW DELHI: India has sought assistance of $30 million under the Global Tiger Initiative, Keshav Varma, programme manager for the World Bank-led scheme, said here on Tuesday.He was speaking on the sidelines of the first stock-taking meeting of tiger-bearing countries on the Global Tiger Recovery Programme.India has refused to let Bank funds be used for protection and running of tiger reserves in the country but Varma suggested that the funds were to be used for the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and international collaborations.

While India hosted the meeting which saw around 150 delegates and experts come together, the differences of approach between the World Bank initiative and Indian government’s approach were visible even on the inaugural day of the workshop.

While Varma referred to the US law on creating wilderness spaces – wildlife zones with no permanent human presence — environment and forests minister Jayanthi Natarajan emphasized that conservation in India had to be more inclusive, involving and protecting the rights of people living in vicinity of forests.

“The ‘people agenda’ ranks prominently in our ‘tiger agenda’. While we do not imagine any coexistence in the inviolate core areas, a viable inclusive agenda involving local people is fostered in the surrounding buffer,” Natarajan said.

Earlier too, while the initiative was taking off, India had pushed for country-specific solutions to conserve the tiger and won the debate on maintaining the issue as a ‘sovereign one’ – something that member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority Rajesh Gopal stated yet again on Tuesday at the stock-taking exercise.

The workshop is expected to set the agenda for this year and negotiate and deliberate common parameters to assess conservation efforts.

Varma also advocated a greater role for the private sector in conservation efforts – something the government has not allowed so far though several agencies and corporates have shown interest in getting involved in management of such reserves, which improves their branding and is also a lucrative business proposition with tiger tourism being a key market.

The Union government is expected to present before the Supreme Court fresh guidelines about regulating tourism around tiger reserves within the next few days.

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