Taking Flight…

Tourism and Conservation

SubscribeFiled Under: We Share,by Neeraj

Poaching is a big problem in practically all national parks in India (and Africa). The picture below, taken in the famous Kaziranga National Park in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, is very disturbing. Kaziranga is the home of the critically endangered Indian Rhinoceros or the Great One-Horned Rhinoceros.

Seen below is a dying rhino with its horn cut-off.

Poached Rhino

Poached Rhino (click to go to news article)

It is interesting how China is the primary reason for poaching and also the deforestation of the Amazon and other rain forests all over the world.  Timber from the Amazon and various other places is shipped to China. It is used to make furniture, which is exported to Europe. The insatiable appetite of the Dragon for exotic animal products for use in “traditional medicine” and as exotic delicacies, is threatening wildlife all over the world with extinction. Forests are also being illegally cleared to satisfy the demand from China.

There’s a wise saying, “you can hide from reality, but you cannot hide from the consequences of avoiding reality.”  In India, if efforts to step up tourism in national parks are not increased, then poaching will occur until extinction and the country’s rich wildlife heritage will be lost forever.  Sadly, there are already several “tiger reserves” in India without any tigers left in it.

To make matters worse, the Supreme Court of India recently banned tourism in the core areas of tiger reserves across the country. This was apparently done to limit human disturbances (including tourism) in tiger territory. I strongly believe this is a step in the wrong direction and more research should have been done before making such a call that has potentially devastating consequences. The ban only keeps the tourists out, not the poachers. Indeed, tiger deaths were significantly higher in 2012 than in 2011 when the ban was not in place. Tourism in the core areas should be strongly encouraged or poachers will have unrestricted reign with no one to keep an eye on the tigers.

So how will tourism help in conservation?  The reality is, if there is no economic incentive to protect animals, no one is going to do anything about poaching.  Tourism brings in money.  People will pay to see a tiger in the wild.  As long as wild animals have more economic value from tourism than from poaching, there is strong incentive to protect them. If tigers, rhinoceros,  leopards etc. are lost to poaching, the money generated from wild life safaris (tourism) is also lost and so are the livelihoods of all those who depended on it.

Aditya Singh, who lives in Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, says it best, “it is far better having cameras pointing at a tiger, than guns.”  See his excellent article on The Tourism Conundrum – An Insider Responds.

Dead Tiger at Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve

Dead Tiger at Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve (image source: see link above)

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