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

    Video Somali, AU Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    Somalia’s Western backers frustrated over country’s slow progress in establishing its armed forces to bring security after 25 years of chaos

    Israel Makes Push for Gaza Strip Recovery

    After years of economic blockade and attempts to disable Hamas, Israeli leaders eventually realized that Hamas’ downfall could lead to chaos or the rise of a more radical Jihadist group

    Slump in Chinese Tourists Hitting Hong Kong Retail

    Mainland Chinese account for up to three-quarters of visitors to Hong Kong, but that number is falling, and shopping centers are struggling to 'shift gears' and maintain sales

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shababi
    X
    Henry Ridgwell
    April 28, 2016 4:20 PM
    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Town Receives Refugees but Lacks Resources

    A wave of refugees is pouring into the Kurdish town of Afrin in northern Syria as a result of fighting between rebel forces and Islamic State militants. VOA’s Amina Misto went to the town and reports local authorities are finding it difficult to cope with this influx of internally displaced people. Bronwyn Benito narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Build Human Tissue on Animal Matrix

    The question has always been, if a gecko can grow back its tail, why can't we regenerate our lost body parts? Well, maybe we can, someday. Scientists are moving towards the ability to rebuild fully functioning organs, and have made significant progress replacing muscles and other tissue.
    Video

    Video Containing Chernobyl Radiation Continues 30 Years After Explosion

    April 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Hundreds were killed following the explosion and it's estimated that thousands more have died from cancers caused by the radiation. Henry Ridgwell traveled to Chernobyl and reports for VOA on the continuing efforts to decommission the site -- and on the fledgling plans for a new future in the vast exclusion zone.
    Video

    Video Frustration Builds Among Refugees Trapped at Macedonian Border

    On the Greek border with Macedonia, 12,000 refugees continue to wait. Since the route to the rest of Europe was closed last month, the makeshift camp at Idomeni has seen protests and tear gas. But while those here wait, their frustration grows — as do reports of people attempting to find new ways of continuing their journey. John Owens reports from Idomeni.
    Video

    Video Researchers: Bees Help Kenyan Farmers Fend Off Elephants

    Elephant crop-raiding continues to be a major source of human-wildlife conflict in Kenya, so one elephant researcher is helping to alleviate the problem near Tsavo East National Park with beehive fences, which use elephants’ natural aversion to bees to deter them from farms. VOA’s Jill Craig visited the area ahead of this month's Giants Club Summit, which will bring together dignitaries at Mount Kenya to find solutions to combat poaching, the No. 1 threat to elephants.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora