News / Asia

Tourists Help Conservation Effort at Indian Tiger Reserves

A tiger looks on in the jungles of Banergatta Biological Park, about 25 kilometers (16 miles) south of Bangalore, India (2006 file photo).
A tiger looks on in the jungles of Banergatta Biological Park, about 25 kilometers (16 miles) south of Bangalore, India (2006 file photo).
Anjana Pasricha
After a temporary ban on tourism in India’s tiger reserves was lifted last October, tens of thousands of visitors are flocking to catch a glimpse of the big cat in the country’s sprawling wildlife sanctuaries. In north India,  tourism is helping to conserve the endangered species. 

The 63-rooms at Riverview Retreat, a resort at Corbett National Park, are all booked, and jeeps regularly line up in the drive to take visitors for safaris to spot the tiger.

The park is India’s oldest wildlife reserve.  It is located in the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand state.

In recent weeks, Pan Singh Bisht, the manager at Riverview Retreat, has been working late in the evening to take care of the large number of visitors.

Economic windfall

He says business suffered for 84 days, when the supreme court banned tiger tourism last July. But now the season is in full swing.  

The ban came in response to a petition which said visitors were damaging efforts to conserve the tiger, whose numbers have dwindled to about 1,700, at last count.

The ban was lifted after conservationists argued that the reverse was true. They said the real threat to tigers were poachers, not tourists. They say visitors created much-needed jobs for local communities, giving them a vital stake in its survival. 

At Corbett, this is corroborated by villagers.  Chandan Kumar, 35, works as a waiter in the restaurant at Riverview Retreat. He says his salary supplements the meager family income from his parents’ small farm.

Kumar says he despaired of finding a job after he left school. There was no private industry in the area and he could not get through exams needed to secure the handful of government positions in the nearby town. 

Tourism sustains jobs

But today, Corbett National Park has nearly 100 resorts to cater to the steady stream of tourists. They help sustain thousands of jobs from hotel staff to guides, drivers, craftspeople and shopkeepers.  

Sanjay Chimwal, a resort wildlife coordinator, grew up in the area and has witnessed a huge change in the way villagers look upon national efforts to conserve the tiger. 

About a quarter century ago, as families like Chandan Singh’s grew larger, villagers, dependant solely on farming, were pressing into the forest, squeezing the tiger’s habitat. That brought local populations into conflict with the big cat and other predatory animals.

So when gangs of poachers targeted the tigers to supply the thriving Asian medicine market in tiger parts, local communities were indifferent.

That has changed says Chimwal, as the economy of villages surrounding the park has boomed. The rising prosperity has made them partners in the battle to conserve the species. He says it is impossible to protect the tiger in isolation.   

“If you don’t have sympathy of humans, specially of the local community who live with them, you cant really convince them for their protection," he said. "Earlier they were not getting benefit.  Their crops were raided.  Their animals were killed.  So now they see benefit. Now, living standard of people, specially in these areas, has really gone up.”

Wildlife thrive at Corbett

Unlike some tiger reserves where the numbers of the big cat have dwindled sharply, Corbett is one of India’s success stories, with increasing tiger populations.

That does not make it easier to spot the wild ones lurking deep in the forest.  Thirty -year-old Harpreet Shergil has come with his friends from New Delhi  to Corbett. As his vehicle traversed through dense foliage for four hours, he only managed to spot some elephants, deer and monkeys.  The big cat eluded him. Shergil is determined to return and wants to stay in the sanctuaries inner sanctum. 

“Did not get to see the tiger.  Actually missed it by 15-20 minutes," he said. "I would like to come here again. I am very keen to see the tiger.  This time around, I will stay in the core area.”

Need for regulation

There are concerns that tourism needs to be more stringently regulated. The supreme court has asked state governments to limit tourism to 20 percent of the core areas of tiger reserves where big cats are believed to travel, breed and hunt.

The concerns have been triggered by the huge influx of tourists to the reserves in a country where rising incomes are prompting more domestic travel. Wildlife coordinator Sanjay Chiwal says that can constrain the animals.

“Like they say every coin has two sides," he said. "With the boom in tourism, traffic has really gone up and movement of animals has been obstructed.”  

Conservationists also say that private resorts at tiger parks like Corbett need to focus more strictly on what authorities call “low-impact tourism.” In a bid to boost business, the resorts at Corbett do not just host visitors wanting to spot tigers, but also corporate conferences and noisy wedding parties, to the dismay of many wildlife enthusiasts.

You May Like

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify Power Base

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs