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Is there a Tiger Tourism Crisis in India? Could ways of tiger watching be improved?

Photo kindly provided by Clive Wilsher

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Francesc Llimona.

Bio: Biologist in charge of research and conservation projects at the Can Balasc Biological Station in Collserola Park (Barcelona, Spain)

Since 2000 myself and my wife, who is also a biologist and a specialist in bioacoustics and wildlife sound recordings, have visited India four times. During these trips I have visited different National Parks, Tiger Reserves and Wildlife Sanctuaries such as Taroba NP.(Maharastra), Bandhavgharth N.P., Kanha N.P. (twice) (Madhya Pradesh), Corbett N.P. (three times), Kaziranga N.P.(Assam), Velavadar N.P. (Gujarat), Pin Valley N.P. (Himachal Pradesh), Gir N.P. (Gujarat), Pench N.P. (Maharasthra), Marine N.P.(Gujarat) and different Wildlife Sanctuaries: Nagzhira, Bhambragar,(Maharasthra) Wild Ass Sanctuary, Kichadiya, (Gujarat) Sunderbans, (West Bengal) Bharatpur. (Rajastan).

With the help of Asian Adventures Company we have also been able to visit Kinnaur, Spiti (Himachal Pradesh) and Pangott in Nainital area (Uttar Pradesh).

In some cases we had the opportunity to participate in Tiger census with National Parks staff and also my wife and I have provided some wildlife sound recordings to some Indian researchers.

I am of course an enthusiast of Indian Wildlife and am strongly concerned about Indian natural areas conservation.

After each trip, back in our country we have given some conferences at the university about the value of Indian National Parks and also we have written some divulgation articles in Spanish nature magazines.

I am writing this letter just after our last trip to India. In that trip we visited the impressive Kanha National Park for the second time. We have noticed some changes after our first visit in 2000.

Moreover that the impressive increasing of the number of visitors, we were appalled at the way that the “Tiger Show” is conducted by the N.P. Directorate. We think that using radio telemetry systems for tracking the tigers to be shown to the tourists is not the best way to contribute to the environmental education of the visitors.

Of course this is the easiest way to show a tiger to the public. But what is the result?

The foreigners who have paid a huge amount of Rps. become disappointed because they feel that they have visited a kind of circus.

The general impression of most of the people who make the Gypsy’s queue waiting for the 50 meter elephant ride, is that the chances of seeing tigers is just a question of money, and too easy if you pay.

I think this is not the best way to educate the visitors about the idea that tiger conservation is something really important and difficult, rather than just a “show”.

As wildlife biologists we are used to working with Radio-telemetry equipment. It is used as a very serious way to study wildlife without disturbing it. Of course the tiger should be studied extensively by any kind of methodologies, including radio tracking, but I repeat the image of the mahouts with antennas just to have an easier and easier “Tiger Show” does not contribute to extending useful ideas concerning what watching a tiger in the nature really means.

This text is not only our opinion. We have also heard the same idea from a lot of European visitors who are really interested in Indian Tiger Conservation.

Note: This article has been published with the permission of the Author. This article does not necessarily express the views of www.ecotourdirectory.com

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