Wildlife tour operators stop promoting Indian tiger parks

Published on Mar 25, 2005 01:55 PM IST

Badly hit by the dwindling tiger population, Indian tour operators have stopped promoting tiger reserves to foreign tourists.

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HT Image
PTI | ByIndo-Asian News Service, New Delhi

Badly hit by the dwindling tiger population, Indian tour operators have stopped promoting tiger reserves to foreign tourists.

So worrying is the situation that the operators are revising their trails and advising tourists to get interested in other sights of nature.

"We are not promoting Ranthambore and Sariska any more," said Manoj Singh Rana of India Adventure, a company that promotes tiger camps and trail packages for foreign as well as Indian nature enthusiasts.

"If the tiger situation persists, we are in for worse times."

Tiger trail routes have been changed to exclude the famed Ranthambore park in Rajasthan, once one of the most attractive destinations for tiger spotting.

At least 18 of 47 tigers in Ranthambore are reported to be missing.

The World Wide Fund-India says there may be no tigers left in another Rajasthan park Sariska, which was home to more than a dozen of these animals. No tigers have been seen there since June 2004.

The last all-India census in 1993 estimated 3,750 tigers, a sharp decline from four years earlier. At present, the numbers are estimated to be even less -- 3,000 to 3,500 tigers - due to poaching, scarcity of prey and over-used habitat.

Tigers are being poached for skin, claw and bones mainly used in traditional Chinese medicines.

An alarmed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set up a task force to save the endangered species and also established a wildlife crime prevention bureau.

Poaching may also have claimed six tigers in another big sanctuary, Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh, which tour operators believed was still better off than other wildlife parks in tiger sightings.

G.S. Rathore of Pench Tiger camps said there had been no tiger sightings in any of the popular reserves in the past year.

"We are very concerned," he said, adding that bookings had fallen and tourist revenues had dipped by 10 percent. "We have seen major cancellations by clients who are preferring to go to Africa."

Pench is advising its clients not to expect to see tigers in Ranthambore, Sariska or Corbett.

"We tell them if you want to see tigers, you should visit the zoo. But in will be hard to spot them in the wild," said Rathore.

It has been similarly disappointing business for Indian Travel, which promotes cultural as well as wildlife tours.

"Since sightings are rare, we have stopped promoting Ranthambore or Corbett as tiger attractions," said Aftab Ahmed of Indian Travel. "We tell clients not to come to India for only tigers."

According to him, tourists to Corbett had been coming disappointed for the past two years. As many as half a dozen tour teams had cancelled last year, each meaning a loss of $2,000.

"We don't promote Sariska. As for the others, we mentally prepare tourists by saying the chances of sighting the big cat are slim. But still some of the teams came back and asked us to stop promoting the park as a tiger haven."

It is a dismal tale for a country that used to attract nature lovers for its tigers.

Wildlife experts regret that the realisation has come late for the Indian government.

"Now even Madhya Pradesh parks are suffering," said Tito Joseph of the Wildlife Protection Society of India. "The tiger population in Panna has also plummeted, and a separate census is being conducted."

--Indo-Asian News Service

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