Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court of India’

In just a couple of days, on August 29th, the Indian Supreme Court will make a decision on whether or not to extend its temporary ban on tourism in core areas of the nation’s tiger reserves.

Royal Bengal Tiger (photo credit: tanplal, http://www.flickr.com/photos/13070711@N03/)

The reasons behind the ban are rather complex and involve the creation of buffer zones that many of the states failed to do, or even provide plans for doing so, as mandated by law.

The Supreme Court judges even asked the Indian government’s attorney what they are doing to save tigers, and chastised the government for lacking effective tiger protection measures.  “What have you done for tiger project…?”, the judges wondered.

Much is at stake, with the tourism and related industries pushing hard to end the ban.

It seems that one viable approach might be to allow some of the most accessible parks to be open to tourism, as before, and leave the ban in place in a majority of the tiger reserves.  Leave open Rathambore and Corbett National Parks, for example, and a few in mid and southern India.  There are 42 tiger reserves in India, more than anywhere else in the world.  It could be worth a try leaving some closed and some open to tourists.

There are many people dependent upon the tourism industry for their livelihoods.  And, according to Belinda Wright, a tiger expert and executive director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, the presence of tourist vehicles also deters poachers. “The number of local people who depend on wildlife tourism is huge,” she said.

Yet K. Ullas Karanth, with the Wildlife Conservation Society, recently wrote that “The arguments that the tourism industry’s watchful eyes are necessary to protect wildlife and its ‘ban’ will lead to collapse of wildlife protection are also facetious.”  He also made a crucial distinction between budget tourism and high-end tourism, and how the tendency toward “boutique tourism” can undermine long-term public support for wildlife conservation in India more than the court’s suspension of tourism in a few high-profile tiger reserves.

If there aren’t any wild tigers left in the reserves, that part of the tourist industry is going to eventually collapse anyway.

Others have suggested looking at the South African and Kenyan models of tourism, and how these two countries have used well-managed tourism programs and higher fees to fund conservation initiatives, local economic growth, and to fight poaching.

While seeing a wild tiger must be an amazing experience, the safety and survival of tigers should be the priority.  Poaching patrols need to be vastly increased, as well as education of those who buy tiger parts (mainly from China).  Some people and organizations have also claimed that the government has done a very poor and ineffective job saving tigers.  Given the dire situation, this is probably true in many cases.

India and the world are running out of time to protect the Bengal Tiger.   It is estimated that only 3,700 tigers exist in the world today.  All efforts should be made to protect them.


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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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