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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs