The Supreme Court is hearing a PIL filed by social activist, Ajay Dubey, which proposes banning tourism in the country’s tiger reserves. Dubey’s contention is that excessive tiger tourism is disturbing the natural habits of tigers and also points to an incident earlier this year, where a tourist vehicle struck and killed a tigress and the subsequent death of two cubs she was rearing.
Many activists and tour operators contend that tiger tourism should be better managed, but resist calling for a ban. “Banning tiger tourism would be a disaster,” said Belinda Wright, director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). “Tourism acts as a conservation tool and also provides income to thousands of people, many of them local to the area of the reserves,” Wright told reporters in New Delhi.
Many conservationists are of the view that tourism helps protect the tigers, as the public become eyes and ears for a reserve, and also provides livelihood for various people from drivers to guides and naturalists. Travel Operators for Tigers, a group representing tour groups, says a ban would dent India’s tourism industry. Vishal Singh, who heads Travel Operators for Tigers (a non-profit Wildlife Association, which campaigns for better and more sustainable nature tourism practices in India), said the negative impact of tourism on tiger habitats was exaggerated. “Wildlife tourists carry cameras, not axes. They do not poach, do not submerge forests with dams… They are being unjustifiably blamed for killing tigers,” Singh said.