In July of this year, India’s Supreme Court took the bold, and controversial, step of banning “tiger tourism” throughout the country. The move was made to protect the increasingly rare big cats and to force state governments to come up with conservation plans for habitats in which the creatures live. Now the court has reversed its decision, opening the outer 20 percent of 41 national and local parks to visitors, while also giving the states just six months to comply with government mandates for protecting the nation’s tiger population.
When first announced, the original ban was met with widespread disapproval amongst conservationists and members of India’s travel industry. The country is one of the few places on the planet where visitors have the opportunity to see a tiger in the wild and as a result, many people will pay for that experience. According to the Washington Post, bookings had been down prior to the lifting of the ban, which meant less revenue generated from tourism. Quoting government sources, the Post also says that about 15% of India’s tourism is wildlife related.
Perhaps the biggest argument in favor of lifting the ban came from conservationists who reminded the Supreme Court that tourists aren’t a threat to tigers. They also noted that poachers were more likely to prey on the big cats when there were fewer people around and by banning tourism, the government had in fact made it easier for those hunters. With an estimated 1700 tigers still in the wild in India, their numbers are now a fraction of what they once were.
I’m a big proponent of using tourism dollars to support animal conservation, so I was happy to hear that India had lifted this ban. When done properly, tourism cannot just fund conservation efforts, but can also help revitalize endangered species. This has been used to great effect in Africa, where travelers pay a high fee to visit gorilla sanctuaries. But those fees go directly to helping fund protection efforts and as a result, we’ve begun to see a rise in gorilla populations. India could do something similar and help bring their tigers back from the edge of extinction too.
[Photo credit: B_cool via WikiMedia]
Two recent poaching incidents reveal the dangers faced by India’s rare animals, even when they are supposedly under protection.
The BBC reports that a one-horned rhino was shot in Assam when it wandered out of Kaziranga National Park. Poachers took its horn but the animal did not die. Park staff are now trying to save it. The park is home to about two-thirds of the world’s population of one-horned rhinos, which number in total fewer than 3,000 individuals. Thirteen of the animals have been poached in the park in the past nine months.
On the same day, the BBC reported the poaching of a tiger in a zoo. Poachers entered the Itanagar zoo in Arunachal Pradesh and hacked a female tiger into half a dozen pieces before being scared off by the security guards, who had been away eating dinner.
The Times of India reports that several employees have been fired over the zoo incident. No arrests have been made in either crime.
Poaching is a major problem in many countries because of the high demand for animal parts as trophies and for use in traditional medicine.
[Photo courtesy Mandeep Singh]
It’s rare to get up close and personal with an elusive animal like the white tiger, so I was intrigued when I saw today’s photo choice by Flickr user toffiloff. Taken at Bali’s Safari and Marine Park, the shot captures this magnificent cat as it appears to stare at its own reflection in a mirror. I love the fearsome growl, the piercing blue eyes and the interesting perspective from behind. Hopefully our photographer was not inside the animal enclosure to take this neat shot!
Have any great wildlife shots from your travels? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.
The village of Umri in Rajasthan, India, is no more.
The entire population of 82 families, some 350 people, has been relocated because the village stands inside the Sariska tiger reserve, the BBC reports. The move aims to protect the local tiger population, which is rebounding after being wiped out by poachers several years ago. This reflects a gain in tiger population nationwide after stronger efforts against poaching and mitigation efforts with local human populations.
Tigers are feared by the villagers, who not only worry for themselves but their livestock. Often villagers will hunt or try to poison tigers that come into their neighborhood. Humans also compete with tigers for land and wildlife.
Umri is the second village to be moved and all eleven villages in the reserve will eventually be relocated. The Indian government says the villagers are being compensated with free land, livestock, up to one million rupees ($20,241), and are being relocated as close as possible to their old homes.
The case highlights the problems facing conservationists worldwide. Human needs have to be balanced with those of the endangered animals, and doing that can be a tricky business. Relocating villages is a difficult and expensive task, and what will be done with the two national highways that pass through the park remains to be seen.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Did today’s Photo of the Day make you look twice? The tiger you see in the car is not a real animal, but a stuffed tiger at a car show display taken by Flickr user justchuckfl. The car is a British-made 1965 Tiger with a tail peeking out of the gas tank from Esso, whose slogan was “put a tiger in your tank.” The tiger is pretty lifelike for a stuffed animal, though I’d think the real cat would sit in the front seat.
Seen anything in your travels that made you do a double take? Add your photos to the Gadling Flickr pool and we may choose one for a future Photo of the Day.