News / Asia

Proposed Tourism Ban Renews Tiger Welfare Debate in India

An Indian Royal Bengal Tiger yawns as he rests in the water-pond inside an enclosure at the Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad, May 11, 2011 (file photo).
An Indian Royal Bengal Tiger yawns as he rests in the water-pond inside an enclosure at the Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad, May 11, 2011 (file photo).


Kurt Achin

India's Supreme Court is examining a proposed measure that could put a large number of tigers off limits to tourists in some of its forest reserves. Tourism advertisements all over India use images of the tiger, India's national animal, to attract visitors.

Now, the Supreme Court is weighing a proposal to ban tiger tourism in areas of India's Madhya Pradesh state. Social activist Ajay Dubey managed to push the proposal all the way to the nation's highest court, saying the big cats need protection.

"The tigers of India are being made to pay for the mindless tourism and their numbers are falling constantly," said Dubey.  "There are a lot of incidents where tourists went inside and there have been casualties. This kind of tourism is a curse for the existence of tigers."

Dubey argues that tourists, riding jeeps to get the closest possible look they can, disturb the natural habits of the tigers. He also points to an incident earlier this year in Madhya Pradesh, when a tourist vehicle struck and killed a female tiger, resulting in the eventual death of the two cubs she was trying to protect.

Madhya Pradesh has only six of India's 40 tiger reserves, but a disproportionately high number of the country's tigers live in them. Existing national tiger conservation guidelines declare so-called core areas of a reserve to be "inviolate." Until now, that has been interpreted mainly as a ban on construction and similar disruptive activities. Dubey's proposal would extend the interpretation to make tourism off limits.

Anuradha Mutatkar is legal counsel for the Travel Operators for Tigers India Wildlife Association. She contends that the existing guidelines don't ban tourism, and nor should they.

"It should be interpreted that there should be no development activity inside the national park, inside the core area," said Mutatkar.  "And we are not against tiger conservation because what we earn is from tiger conservation."

Belinda Wright, a tiger protection activist, is afraid that this decision would set a bad precedent for tiger reserves nationwide.

"To close the door on all tourism in tiger reserve core areas would be a disaster from many points of view, not the least of which for the tiger because I don't believe that without tourism the tigers can be protected and saved and secured for the future," said Wright.

Many activists find common ground in the opinion that tiger tourism should be better managed in the country, but resist the notion of a tourism ban. Latika Nath Rana holds a doctorate in tiger conservation, and also runs a tiger tourist lodge in Madhya Pradesh. She says there is no scientific evidence to prove that tourism is harmful for the tigers.

"I compared a tourism zone with a non-tourism zone and I was studying this for four years and the benefits of tourism were enormous," she noted.  "By the tourists going in for a few hours a day, they are actually becoming the eyes and ears of the public."

Sonsai Baiga, a member of a tribe living near the reserves, performs traditional dances for tourists.  He says his dance troupe has entertained tiger-watching visitors for many years. He says this is how we earn they earn their livelihood.

Opponents of a ban say it would erode various livelihood options in reserves, from drivers to tour guides.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Countries Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs