Despite fierce opposition from local businesses and conservationists, a month-old ban on tourism in India’s tiger preserves has been indefinitely extended.
India’s Supreme Court decision to disallow tourists from entering preserves as part of a guided service stems from from a petition by activist Ajay Dubey. He said the state’s with tiger preserves have not enforced the Wildlife Act of 1972 which bans tourism in core tiger breeding zones. That law says that tourists can enter buffer zones outside of the core habitat. When 13 states were asked to provide zoning plans for reserves, only three complied and so a ban was instigated.
Dubey said that since the law was put place in 1972, it has been ineffective as tigers numbers are still declining. According to Dubey nearly 1800 tigers have been lost since 1972.
For the past few weeks, the moratorium on the tiger preserve tours has hit local hoteliers, guide services, and related businesses the hardest. Yadvendra Singh has run Tiger Eye Adventure Tours since 1992, but his doors have been closed and he has not earned a penny since July 24, 2012, the time of the first ban.
He said this is the first time he’s faced with finding a new job in the 20 years he’s been in business. He also claims that tourists have a positive impact on tiger conservation. They act as watchdogs for poachers in tiger reserves. While some wildlife experts agree that tourists are harming the habitat within tiger preserves, there is a limit to how much tourism a preserve can sustain.
In Ranthambore National Park there were a total of 520 visitors in 40 vehicles allowed per day. Also, the preserve was only open to tourists for six hours a day; Three hours in the morning and three in the afternoon.
The Vidarbha Economic Development Council (VED) has “admitted an intervention” to the petition put forth by Dubey. The group said the ban “will affect thousands of stakeholders in Vidarbha.” VED President Devendra Parakh said, “if present and future generation is deprived of park visits, how can we expect them to understand the importance of protecting forests and wildlife?,” to the Times of India.
The petition will be heard in court on September 27.