The Supreme Court in India has temporarily banned tourism in the central areas of the country’s 41 tiger reserves in an effort to protect the last of India’s 1,700 tigers.
Even with such a small number, India is home to half of the world’s tiger population, Al Jazeerareports.
Until the late 1960s, game hunters would tread freely through the Rajasthan’s Ranthambore National Park, which was filled with tigers in the national reserve, southwest of Delhi, NPRreports.
According to field biologist Dharmendra Khandal, in the past six years 20 percent of the land where tigers resided has been lost to compensate for the demands of the rapidly growing population in India.
The Supreme Court petitioner, Ajay Dubey, who is the main proponent of the bill says the main reasons behind the ban was because he has been working for more than 12 years with “environmental issues and good governance.”
“Mindless tourism” is one of the main causes of the dwindling tiger population and why human activity should be cut off, Dubey said:
“Eighteen-hundred tigers in 1972, right? Now we are having only 1,700 tigers — only 1,700 tigers. We have to be more careful and sincere for the conservation of the tiger.”
There is some debate though as to whether tourists always act as a damaging agent or perhaps maybe instill watchdogs and keep poachers out of protected areas.
Entry into Ranthambhore is already highly restricted and only 520 visitors are permitted for a restricted amount of time.
Some locals believe cutting off tourism could easily cut off their livelihoods because many depend on the tourism industry.
Poachers are thought to be the larger source of danger than tourists. Tiger body parts and bones are poached for exorbitant amounts.
The central areas of the tiger reserves are considered to be “inviolate” according to India’s Wildlife Protection Act. The Supreme Court has yet to explain what that means.
A big source of controversy remains as how to deal with poachers. The new act does not necessarily address how the government intends to diminish the presence of poachers.
Only yesterday, poachers broke into a zoo in Itanagar, India where they killed a tiger.