Health and Environment, Travel News|

India Bans Tiger Parks Tourism

Tiger Resting in GrassThe India Supreme Court has banned tourism in tiger reserves throughout the country in a ruling that aims to protect the endangered animals. However, this will disrupt travel plans for thousands of tourists, who booked stays at the hundreds of accommodation venues that have arisen deep within the forests. These travellers will now be forced to move to hotels and resorts outside the tiger reserves.

More than half of the estimated 3,200 tigers in the world live in India, and most live in wildlife reserves that have been set up since the ’70s. Inside the tiger parks, hundreds of hotels and shops have appeared, catering to wildlife-watching travellers. Now the Supreme Court has banned tiger parks tourism, but this is only a temporary ban. The court is waiting for a final judgment on a case filed by wildlife activists, demanding that all commercial activity be banned from the core area of reserve forests – the home of the tigers.

The temporary ban on tourism in the core tiger reserve areas has set off protests from travel and tour operators. They argue that stopping tourism will encourage illegal wildlife trafficking. This is because poachers won’t be deterred by the presence of tourists. Travel trade group Travel Operators for Tigers says tigers are safer in reserves that are visited by many travellers. The highest densities of tigers can be found in the most heavily visited reserves. Unloved and unseen wildlife sanctuaries and forests lost their tigers and other wildlife to poachers, neglect and grazing, it added.

Ajay Dube, a conservationist, complained to the court that authorities in several states allowed hotels, wildlife shops and resorts to be built in the core areas of forest reserves. He said that vital tiger habitats should be kept safe from all human disturbances, including tourists. National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) lawyer Wasim Kadri says the court has announced that Indian states which haven’t created buffer zones around tiger habits will face stiff penalties.

This comes as the court has fined six states for not declaring buffer zones around tiger reserve parks, and officials have three weeks to act on its ruling. The court had ordered in April that eight states declare buffer zones around the tiger reserves within three months. Since then, only two states have complied with the order, prompting judges to fine the other six.

Meanwhile, an undercover investigation by the Ecologist Film Unit has revealed that the future of endangered wild Asian elephants has been threatened due to an illegal cross-border trade to serve the tourist industry in Thailand. The film has uncovered how at least 50 to 100 elephant calves and young females are removed from their Burma homes every year to be illegally traded, supplying tourist camps in Thailand. Most of the animals are used for trekking, as attractions in wildlife parks, in festivals and for riding in tourist destinations. However, campaigners say that countless elephants die in the process, threatening the last of the endangered species.

It’s estimated that up to one million British travellers go to tourist camps in Thailand every year. This has led to claims that they are unwittingly fuelling the devastating illegal trade of elephants. Campaigners are now calling on authorities in Thailand to crackdown on elephant smuggling. This comes before the next Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora in March next year.




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