It was great news this week when the Indian Government lifted the ban on tourists visiting the tiger conservation parks.
The ban came into effect back in July when complaints were made that commercial activity was having an impact on the tiger population. The decision on whether to open or keep the parks closed has been delayed over the last few months, with hearings happening every couple of weeks but decisions delayed. The ban has been controversial with conservationist saying the lack of tourist visiting the tigers will cause them more harm through increased logging and poaching. Without the money brought in by tourism there will be a substantial loss of funding going into the protection of tigers.
The delays in making a decions have of course had an impact on the British tour companies that operate trips to India. The ongoing delays has meant cancelling trips and reworking itineraries. The reopening of the parks, even with the new rules has come with a great sigh of relief.
Of course the ban has been good in some way forcing the Indian Government and Courts to reassess the rules that the parks adhere to so that the tigers are further protected. The new rules( such has vehicles needing to stay a minimum of 20m from any tiger) have been developed to make sure tigers have limited contact with tourists and can live in the parks with little hassle. The full set of guidelines can be found here – http://projecttiger.nic.in/whtsnew/Comprehensive_Guidelines_NTCA.pdf . The real test will be whether any significant improvements can be seen in conservation and the tiger population over the next couple of years.
I believe the Indian Courts have made the correct decision opening the parks to the public once more. Through tourism the parks can make money that will aid in the conservation but also allow tourists to learn more and appreciate the complexities that face animal conservation. I only hope that these rules make a difference.