The tiger, one of India’s most recognisable icons, is set to become an even more elusive sight for the country’s wildlife-loving tourists, with the announcement of a ban on tourism in the key national parks where the big cats roam.
Following a ruling from India’s Supreme Court, the protected parks where tourists were able to experience close encounters with the predator are likely to exclude all such future visits in an attempt to provide the animals with better protection and to increase their population. At the same time, six states that had not introduced buffer zones around their park’s tiger habitats, as per a ruling made in April, have incurred harsh penalties.
The news is not likely to be welcomed by tourists that have already booked trips to India, with tiger spotting excursions high on their agendas, but the decision has been made amidst allegations that some states have flouted rules and allowed resorts, hotels and shops to be built within the reserves.
A prime driver in the enforcement of the ban is Ajay Dube, a conservationist who filed a complaint that sought to ban tourism and other commercial activity from parks while tiger numbers recover.
Conversely, the tourism industry argues that the money that is generated from such visits is essential to the survival of the animals and the development of local communities.
According to The Daily Mail, Paul Goldstein, a wildlife expert and guide with travel company, Exodus, commented, ‘The presence of tourists is not only a critical source of income it is also an essential deterrent for poachers and without these extra sets of eyes the tigers will be vulnerable and disappear. Nowhere in the world can predators survive without tourism, tigers are no different except they are more vulnerable than any other cat. India is happy to brandish the tiger brand, but their government is about to be responsible for its demise.’
Mr Goldstein also told the newspaper that he has already started receiving cancellations from repeat visitors for next year, claiming that ‘the rot has already set in’.