Despite the ruling today which has potentially catastrophic ramifications on the continued survival of tigers in India (which has been so closely linked to responsible and sustainable tiger tourism), it is still very possible to watch and observe wild tigers in many of their natural habitats with Royle Safaris. Whilst the ruling (article from the Associated Press is detailed at the bottom of this text) is only temporary and the full effects are yet to be made clear to anyone we will continue to run and advertise our fantastic range of tiger safaris all over India. What we will say (and place on each of our tiger safaris of India webpages) is that advice anyone interested in booking any of the tiger safaris of India in the foreseeable future to contact us (either email me direct at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 0845 226 8259) and we will explain how the current status and ruling affect the particular itinerary that you are enquiring about. We cannot do anything more at the moment as the status of tourism and bans will likely change many times between now and whenever a stable resolution is found. We are in constant communication with many people (researchers, conservationists, tour operators, park officials and accommodation owners) in India as well as being close to the director of the wonderful Tour Operators of Tigers (TOFT), Julian Matthews, so we will be in a great position to provide current and up to date information for anyone wanting to book or thinking of booking one of our tiger safaris. We must stress that at this point the views expressed in the third paragraph of this post are my own and not necessarily the opinions of TOFT.
However we must stress that even if tiger tourism is banned completely and permanently in India that you would be unable to see wild tigers in their natural habitat. Far from it, Royle Safaris prides ourself on the fact that we offer one of the largest ranges of tiger safaris in the world. As mentioned we have a great range of tiger safaris all over India (including over 20 of their tiger reserves) we also have pioneering tiger tours to Bangladesh, a great range of tiger safaris in Nepal (from tracking tigers on foot to enjoy the lap of luxury whilst spotting tigers from elephant back), as well as unique tiger and mammal watching in the lowland forests and Bhutan as well as trying to find some of the very rare and elusive high altitude tigers made famous by the BBC ‘Lost Land of the Tiger‘ series. We have also launched tiger safaris for Siberian tigers in Far Eastern Russia (these tours are currently not advertised on our site but will be advertised within the next 2 weeks. We do have the itineraries and quotes available so anyone interested please contact us for more information).
So whilst conservationists fight in the supreme courts of India for a happy medium between the reckless development and unsustainable practises in some regions of tiger reserves and the wonderful eco-tourism that has had such a positive effect on tigers numbers and anti-poaching. The simple idea is that sustainable and eco-friendly tourism is a good thing for wildlife, the increased number of tourists means less time and space for poachers to operate and it also bringing in extra revenue so that the local people receive a direct benefit from having the wildlife and park close to them and this then helps to generate a long-term goal to protect the natural environment rather than plunder it. Unfortunately is it my belief that if tiger tourism was completely banned from Indian reserves tigers would start a road towards extinction across most if not all India, which is why we are fully behind TOFT and the great work that they stand for. In terms of the threats affecting tigers in India, tourism ranks at the bottom, well below poaching, deforestation, livestock over grazing, habitat destruction, transportation deaths, retribution killings and many other illegal uses of the parks. However it is incredibly hard for the Indian government to tackle these problems and much much easier to blame tourism for the tigers low numbers and slow population growth. That is what I see when I read into this situation. There are so many comparable cases around the world and no country (countries with much much better conservation records than India) which has approached conservation like this. In fact whether you pick the jaguars in Brazil, black rhinos in East Africa, snow leopards in the Himalayas, wolves in Yellowstone, great white sharks in South Africa and Australia or mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda you will see the common factor that all of these success stories (whether they are confirmed successes or conservation efforts still in progress with a positive likely outcome), is that they have embraced tourism and this has helped no end to increase the numbers of wild animals. Mountain gorillas provide a very good comparison as their numbers have steadily increased in Uganda and Rwanda where tourism is in use and in the Democratic Republic of Congo has seen numbers of gorillas decrease across their range here. Whilst the lack of tourism is not the only reason for their decline it is one factor.
We hope that a resolution is met soon and one that enables tiger tourism to continue but in a sustainable and well managed system that generates revenue for local people and tiger rangers for their continued conservation whilst meeting the much needed goals of development among the hotels and lodges that serve the parks.
BELOW IS THE ARTICLE RELEASED BY THE AP TODAY (TUESDAY 24th JUNE 2012)
The Supreme Court also announced stiff penalties on Indian states that have not created buffer zones around tiger habitats, said Wasim Kadri, a lawyer with the National Tiger Conservation Authority. The court fined six states for failing to declare buffer zones around tiger reserve forests and gave officials three weeks to act on its orders. India is home to more than half of the world’s estimated 3,200 tigers, with most of them living in wildlife reserves set up since the 1970s.Hundreds of hotels and shops operate inside the tiger reserves to cater to wildlife-watching tourists. The court said the ban was temporary, pending its final judgement on a case filed by a wildlife activist demanding that all commercial activity be banned from the core area of the reserve forests where the tigers live. Conservationist Ajay Dube had complained to the court that authorities in several states had allowed the construction of hotels, wildlife resorts and shops in the core areas of the forest reserves. He told the court that critical tiger habitats should be kept safe from all types of human disturbances, including tourism. In April, the court had ordered eight states to declare buffer zones around the tiger reserves within three months. Only two states had complied with the court ruling, prompting the judges to impose a fine on the remaining six. The ban on tourism in the “core” tiger habitat areas of the reserves set off protests from tour and travel operators who say stopping tourism will encourage illegal wildlife trafficking as poachers will not be hindered by the presence of tourists. Travel Operators for Tigers, a travel trade grouping, said tigers were safer in reserves that were visited by large numbers of tourists. “The highest densities of tigers can be found today in the most heavily visited tiger reserves,” said a statement from the group. “Unseen and unloved” wildlife sanctuaries and forests lost all their tigers and wildlife to poaching, grazing and neglect, it said. The ban on hotels in the core areas of the tiger reserves will hit the holiday plans of hundreds of tourists who have booked rooms to stay in the forest. They will have to move to hotels and resorts outside the reserves.