Tiger reserves in India are feeling the claws of a tourism ban aimed at saving the endangered animal, saying the order has seriously hurt revenues and pushed the parks on the brink of closure.
The temporary ban on core areas issued by the Supreme Court in July was welcomed by some activists who claim that tourism and commercial activities in tiger parks disturb the animals’ way of life. Several environmental groups, however, blamed poachers for the dwindling number of tigers and sought better law enforcement.
India, home to over half of the world’s tiger population, has at least 41 state-run tiger reserves across the country, which could be seriously affected by the ban, with some already feeling the pinch ahead of the court’s permanent ruling of the order.
Larger core areas – or zones with most tigers – such as the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh’s Kanha National Park claimed that the parks have not sold a single ticket.
“The last few weeks have been devastating,” Balendu Singh, a senior official at Ranthambore told the Wall Street Journal, adding the park, which attracted over 200,000 tourists last year, lost revenues worth 3.6 million rupees. Locals’ livelihoods around the area are also affected as they depend on tourism.
But the ban does not hold much sway on parks with large buffer areas unlike Ranthambore and Kanha, such as Uttarakhand’s Jim Corbett National Park and Assam’s Kaziranga Wildlife Reserve, where tourists can still see tigers in the buffer zones – forests close to inhabited land – despite the closure of core viewing areas, the Journal reports.