With decisions like the Supreme Court’s interim order banning tourism inside tiger sanctuaries becoming inevitable in the face of increasing political and executive resistance to expansion of protected nature reserves on public land, the issue of tiger tourism calls for a pragmatic approach that can resolve contradictions between the burgeoning tourism demand and the tiger’s shrinking habitats.
Wildlife biologists K Ullas Karanth & Krithi K Karanth propose a “Tiger Habitat Expansion Model”, based on a shared profit motive between private landowners and tourism entrepreneurs. They believe that this rather than government intervention, is the answer, and can help the tourism industry move towards a sustainable growth model that leverages its economic strength to expand tiger habitats.
The interim order of the Supreme Court in Writ Petition 12351/2010 (Ajay Dubey vs the National Tiger Conservation Authority) has triggered a polarised debate between proponents and opponents of tourism inside tiger reserves. Coverage in public and social media has convinced many that all wildlife tourism has been banned forever in India. And, this “total ban” will drive wild tigers to extinction because: (1) tigers survive only where tourists can protectively watch over them, and (2) public support, vital for tiger conservation, would evaporate when “tiger tourism” ends (Pidd 2012). The opposing view, more prevalent in regional language media, appears to be that tourism is the biggest threat to wild tigers, and that this court order is a panacea that will provide wild tigers the space and peace they need to survive. Allied to the latter is a “rich versus poor” view where all tourists are seen as the representative elite who will take over forest tracts from resident local users (Ghosh 2012). Read the entire article here on the Economic & Political Weekly website.