There are numerous reasons for the alarming rate at which the big cats are disappearing. Poaching, deforestation, Chinese medicine, revenge killing, pet sales, and livestock pressures – the reasons are endless and so is the threat to their existence. So you love the wild cats, but what can we do to save them?
There are increasing efforts taken by numerous organizations to save our almost extinct and rare species of Tigers. While organizations like the Indian Forest Services, National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Wildlife Institute of India carefully take measures to increase the dwindling number of Tigers, campaigns like Travel Operators for Tigers and individuals have a strong belief that organised and eco friendly Tourism can save the Tigers from being extinct.
So how can Tourism help in Protecting Tigers? Julian Matthews the founder Chairman on Travel Operators for Tourism states correctly and accurately just how Tourism helps to protect our Tigers. According to him tourism gives tigers an extraordinary protection through passive viewing and monitoring of these species.
Tourism has a significant impact on the perceived status of a park. It also has the strength to attract local, governmental and international funding. Apart from enhancing the quality of rangers and management tourism also tourism also provides constant vigil from conservationists, naturalist guides, visitors and hotel owners who are concerned about their invaluable wildlife resource.
Despite the threat to their existence tigers still remain symbols of high iconic and tourist value. The ‘striped golden’ as they are sometimes referred to; are a highly sought after tourist attraction and the revenue earned from tourism could be directed towards the protection of these endangered yet highly significant wild cats. India with the most number of tigers today benefits the most from the revenue earned from tiger tourism and if directed wholly towards the protection of tigers would show results sooner than otherwise.
The tiger count conducted in 2008 showed that there were roughly 1,411 tigers remaining in India, a steep fall from 3,642 in 2002. Some tiger conservation organisations believe that there are fewer than 1,411 tigers remaining in India as of today.
Tiger tourism in India happens in 10 out of its 37 tiger reserves. The benefit of tourism in the conservation of tigers is still an open debate. While the tourism industry has its reasons to believe that tourism can help save tigers the National Tiger Conservation Authority has reasons to believe that the reserves are small and prone to endangerment by large amount of tourists.
Commercially viable national parks and sanctuaries hold the maximum number of tigers left in India. Commercial feasibility and tourism have a great impact on the health of a park. Apart from the Government funding, International funding are also obtained to protect the tigers and make a safe and secure environment for them. With the funding received the management also gets encouraged to take extra efforts to save the species.
Countries like South Africa generate the maintenance cost of national parks completely from the tourism Industry. The Indian Wildlife tourism should be inspired by this where the major part of the expenses of maintaining the park could be covered by tourism. In India the fees collected at the Indian Sanctuaries are a miniscule percentage of the cost of maintenance.
What is the Project Tiger India?
Started as an initiative to save the Bengal Tigers of India from extinction, the project was commenced on April 1, 1973 this has been one of the most successful wildlife conservation endeavours. The main task of this campaign was preservation of the tigers in specially constituted reserves of tigers which are spread over bio-geographical diverse sections of India.
The success rate of the campaign could be easily seen from the tiger count rate which the number of tigers increased from a mere 1,200 in 1970 to 3,500 in the 1990’s.
Here are some of the listed Tiger National parks of India –
Bandipur National Park, in Karnataka
Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand
Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh
Manas National Park in Assam
Melghat Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra
Palamau National Park in Jharkhand
Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan
Simplipal National Park in Orissa
Sunderban National Park Tiger Reserve in West Bengal
Time is running faster than we know. Four sub-species of Tigers are now extinct. The Sariska National Park admitted in 2005 that all of its 35 tigers were killed after a group of students from the Wildlife Institute of India searched the park and couldn’t find any. The expose also uncovered how the officials of the park had been falsely exaggerating the number of tigers in the park for years. The Panna National park in Madhya Pradesh also declared recently that all of its 30 tigers are now killed.
Tour Operators for Tigers; a campaign working towards saving Tigers with the help of tourism feel that the way forward is with eco-tourism in well-managed parks – something along the lines already tried in South Africa. Increased visitor numbers could encourage good practise and ward off poachers if handled correctly.
Like the increasing interest taken by tourism operators towards saving our wildlife there are up and coming green safari’s across the globe which could inspire the tourism operators to keep up with their constant effort towards saving the tigers. The Bengal Tigers in Nepal, Coast and community in Tanzania and the Cheetah in Namibia are some of the green safari tours which are generating revenue to save the dying community of rare wildlife species.
We like to believe in facts, and so the empirical evidence has also demonstrated that densest population of tigers with the best breeding success occur within the tourism zones of the park. What is also noticed that it is during the period that tourism is slow in the Tiger Reserves like during the rains that poachers practice their trade without being detected by tour operators, hoteliers, tourists who otherwise act as threats to poachers.
So don’t think, Act today. If holiday is in your mind make sure you make some constructive use of it and visit one of the listed National Parks of India. If you are lucky you might just spot the wild cat, but then again good Karma does no harm to anybody.