Thursday, August 2, 2012

Who killed the tiger?

The cat and mouse game goes on while the tiger slithers away in India. Tourism certainly did not kill the tiger. By the time tiger tourism came into picture the magnificent animal was already in state of imminent extinction. That it still survives is because of robust equity created by tourism and its own charismatic appeal. (Conservation measures as well.)

Others see India as a soft state, but behind the garb of populist democracy some pernicious control mechanism and  authoritative systems still exists. This post colonial phenomena is the legacy of British Rule in India. What gives us credit is emergence of corrupt practices and phenomenal ability to mismanage and indecision.     

Nowhere it is apparent that tourism is the mother of decreasing population of tigers in India. Then will the spaces in our tiger reserves devoid of tourist offer poachers free fall all? Will the sentinels become complacent? Will the tigers breed more? Certainly there is lot of "will" here so time will tell.  

If fruitful tourism is banned, it will be very hard hitting. The first to suffer will be the locals who will loose employment and other means of income that tourism generates. The industry as whole will suffer and loose massive investment made. It would also be depressing for dedicated managers and staff who wish to see their labor appreciated.  

You have noticed that I have used the word fruitful tourism. Wildlife or Ecotourism is a highly competitive industry that competes globally. Large number of inbound tourist arrive in India for birding and wildlife watching. Fact remains that people wish to see the tiger apart from its brethren in the food chain. Unproductive visits would mean an impressive drop in the inbound visitors. The repercussion would be larger than perceived.     

Point of my writing this is that the tiger faces threats from other quarters. Should not we spend the time and resources fighting actual threats unitedly?  So much focus on tourism is bewildering since we have years of data that is suggestive of proper management but not ban. Maximum damage is caused by human settlements on forest and grassland ecosystems in India. Tourism inside the reserves can best be described as transitory without any appreciable resource utilization within.   

The management of tiger reserves do take proactive and protective measures whence question of breeding or other urgency arrives. Forest blocks have been closed for tourism in case of animal breeding and other urgency. This impromptu practice has been going on for years. This is not related to critical tiger habitat, a term that ensures the survival of species in a smaller area. Except for species that survive in an echo niche, tigers and leopards roam all the the reserve, buffer zone included.   

This is not a reaction to Hon. Supreme Court interim judgment nor is it a commentary on any institution. This is authors own perception of life in India.