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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid