Het nieuws, waarin Indiaas Supreme Court heeft besloten om tijdelijk alle toeristen te weren in wildparken waar nog veel tijgers voorkomen, is enorm verontrustend voor de bescherming van tijgers. Het zet onze organisatie, die zich door middel van duurzaam toerisme inzet voor tijgerbescherming, weer een hele stap terug.
Er was geen reden of aanleiding voor deze beslissing en de bijgevoegde reactie in het persbericht van onze voorzitter Julian Matthews laat zien dat toerisme de afgelopen jaren juist enorm heeft bijgedragen aan de bescherming van de tijger. Juist in gebieden waar veel toeristen komen is de tijger goed vertegenwoordigd in een gezonde populatie. In gebieden waar vrijwel geen toeristen komen is de tijger zwaar bedreigd door stroperij.
Response to SP order Banning Wildlife Tourism in Core Zones
“We are devastated with Supreme Court’s decision and will file for a review of petition in the interest of the forests of India, conservation of the tiger population and livelihoods of many bordering forest communities. This judgment goes against the very mission statement of NTCA/Project Tiger”, says Chairman, Julian Matthews.
To quote their mission statement: “The main objective of Project Tiger is to ensure a viable population of tiger in India for scientific, economic, aesthetic, cultural and ecological values and to preserve for all time, areas of biological importance as a natural heritage for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people.”
This decision is a fundamentally retrograde step. It chooses poachers, illegal grazers and woodchoppers over a non-extractive mode of preserving and funding the protection of wilderness landscape.
We are perplexed that the Supreme Court has chosen to disregard the clear evidence that proves that wildlife tourism within India Tiger Parks is not harming tigers. The highest densities of tigers can be found today in the most heavily visited Tiger Reserves including Corbett, Kaziranga and Bandhavgarh. The latest NTCA Tiger census published in March 2011, show that the tiger numbers went up in all these parks – at the same time as tourism numbers have increased significantly. At the same time, unseen and unloved sanctuaries and forest corridors lost all their tigers and wildlife to poaching, grazing, neglect, agriculture and extractive pressures.
We urge the Apex Court of India to consider a review petition and continue to allow “responsible tourism” across National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. Wildlife and Nature Visitors are being unjustifiably stripped of the opportunity of enjoying our forests and seeing animals in their natural habitat. If our present and future generations are deprived of park visits, how are they expected to understand the importance of protecting and conserving them?
We are not making this claim selfishly in the interest of livelihoods that we earn from this legitimate industry, but because we believe that visitors has contributed to saving our parks, being watchdogs, building media and public attention and pressures, ensuring park accountability and provided alternative livelihoods and enterprises for rural communities bordering parks.
ABOUT TRAVEL OPERATORS FOR TIGERS (TOFT)
Travel Operators for Tigers (TOFT) India, a not for profit Wildlife Association, based in Delhi, has since 2004 campaigned hard for better and more sustainable nature tourism practices in India. TOFT India, has been concentrating on better use of parks for the many visitors that now want to enjoy these wildernesses, but more specifically at better policies, training and regulations on the development and provision of accommodation and services on the borders of the parks. Together with over 90 of the best known travel operators from India and across the world and with 40 of India’s finest lodges now gaining Eco rating certification, TOFT puts responsible nature tourism as a catalyst for conservation at the forefront of its mission. It also runs Wildlife Tourism Awards, funds nature guide training and effects eco entrepreneur and conservation projects around Tiger reserves. www.toftigers.org