India does U-turn on tiger tourism ban
NEW DELHI, Aug 23 — India’s government effected a U-turn on the proposed elimination of tiger tourism on Tuesday, telling the Supreme Court that a ban would cause loss of livelihood to the locals and could represent a threat to wildlife and forests, the India Express reported.
The government has asked permission to “review” the guidelines on tiger conservation, only a month after the Supreme Court had restricted tourism in core areas of tiger reserves.
The July 24 mandate ordered tiger reserves to have a core area that only forestry officials would be able to enter. These areas would be surrounded by a buffer zone able to be visited by tourist jeeps. The order affects 41 tiger parks in the country that are home to more than 1,700 tigers.
The ban on tourism in core areas had led to protests from states in tiger reserve areas as well as from environmentalists and conservationists.
Belinda Wright, executive director of the New Delhi-based Wildlife Protection Society of India, told the Guardian that a tourism ban is a “total disaster,” saying that “there is no way the Forestry Department alone can protect tigers from poachers and local encroachment on the land.”
Though official figures on how many tourists visit tiger reserves each year were unavailable, according to the Wall Street Journal, a reserve may host between 180,000 and 220,000 domestic and foreigner visitors a year.
India’s Supreme Court is meeting again on August 29 to reconsider the ban. — AFP-Relaxnews