Some very disturbing news in regard to the Bengal Tigers living in India from this weeks article in the Economic Times, which paints a bad picture of the current issue of the Tiger population in India. Its no surprise that one of the key issues is human greed where the dollar is the driving force behind this and the many more problems to do with the destruction and persecution of wildlife not just here in India, but all around the globe. From my own view its really upsetting to see any animal in distress or in danger of becoming extinct, with the prospect that the next generation of children may only ever see some species of wildlife in zoo’s and wildlife parks becoming ever closer.
Where these places may become the vital link in keeping the species going in the future, but for me there is no mistaking a wild animal which differ greatly from their counterparts in these captive environments which aren’t the best places for wildlife. Apart from captivity, it is estimated that around the world there are as many as 7,000 Tigers in private ownership, with the USA having the highest count, where the numbers kept as a pet or status symbol far exceed the wild population of Tigers. Which is truly a shameful and shocking situation for the Tiger.
It is not a hidden fact that millions of dollars are being poured into the conservation of the striped wonders of India but the situation remains precarious. With fewer than 1400 left in the wild, India is going through its worst tiger crises. Human greed and selfishness has been one of the many cause of the plight of tigers in India and the irony is that as per recent trends, the present crisis has opened up a new dimension to the greed with corporates using the cause as a PR and branding tool hiding behind the garb of conservation.
If human greed and selfishness is one of the prime reasons for the condition of tigers in India today and if greed and selfishness is a character trait that humans understand, it would be worthwhile to save the tiger for our own selfish interest. The role of the tiger in the ecosystem is indeed quite interesting and it goes without saying that the tiger is the perfect indicator of the health of a forest. The tiger protects the forests of our country by maintaining an equilibrium that is important for the survival of its prey (deer, monkeys, boars etc.) and the vegetation.
And since the survival of the forests are crucial for the thousands of rivers, a life source for millions of people in India, that originate and flow through them, it makes the saving of tigers all the more important.
However, the economics of tiger conservation is quite interesting. Let’s consider Corbett as an example. With over 70 private properties in and around the Corbett Tiger Reserve in Uttrakhand, wildlife tourism has become an ever-flourishing business model generating revenues for property owners, travel agents and some great employment opportunities for locals. The local youth now look up to careers like naturalists, guide cum drivers of safari vehicles as a lot of private resorts are in need of such people.
According to the Tiger Task Force data released in 2005/06, a total of 1.29 million people visited tiger reserves in 2004/05 which approximates to 58456tourist per tiger reserve every year and the number is continuously growing year on year. The nominal gate charges of Rs 25-50 gives revenue in crores to most of the popular national parks.
Corbett alone experienced a tourist inflow of over two lakhs in the last season. With a total ceiling of 600 visitors per day, Corbett can officially have 1.6 lakh tourists during the eight-month season. The numbers invariably overshoot this limit. Tourism is rampant in other popular national parks like Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Ranthambore etc. and the tiger, without doubt, is a magnet that pulls the majority of the lot.
Be it an ordinary weekend walk-in tourist, or a season wildlife researcher or photographer, the tiger is the binding force that draws visitors from across the globe.
As per Aditya Singh, wildlife conservationist and tiger expert from Ranthambore “The tourism zone of the Ranthambhore which has around 20 tigers, contributes over Rs 1 billion, directly and indirectly to the Indian economy, every year. Over 40 per cent of this amount never reaches anyone in Ranthambhore and barely three per cent actually goes to the park,” adds Aditya.
Aditya Singh who I had the pleasure to meet,stay with and work with in my recent visit to Ranthambhore works hard in the local area and nationally to highlight the Tigers issues, with a brilliant background in the field of environment and natural habitat & wildlife protection. My Photo-Tour; Tigers Of India next year is based at his lodge/hotel which he owns and runs,where we will have the best environment to see this amazing animal. Where I have an acute interest in conservation and the need to ensure the long-term protection of species and habitats are such an important part of my life. By staying at and visiting the national park and wildlife regions in this Photo-Tour, we will be actively contributing and supporting a beautiful and locally-owned lodge/hotel, employing local people, local guides and other staff who have grown up in this region.
With my preference for local naturalists rather than imported guides, being the key to a successful trip. Ensuring employment opportunities to local communities, so important in developing the local areas, the perfect recipe for the survival of the Bengal Tiger. This kind of wildlife tourism supports rural communities in impoverished areas and supports them in their ability to preserve their natural and wildlife heritage for their future generations. This forms the foundation to this tour and a step in the right direction of helping the local population to see a living Tiger can help the local area with jobs,income etc.
There are a couple of projects I have donated some of my 2010 Year Of The Tiger collection to, as returning back from India this year I wanted to help this amazing animal that I’d wanted to see from childhood, so by giving these image in support of the Tiger I hope to do something to help its current plight.
The two projects are 21st Century Tiger-21st Century Tiger is a wild tiger conservation partnership between the Zoological Society of London and Global Tiger Patrol which raises funds for tiger conservation projects in the field. Established in 1997, it has since become one of the top seven tiger funding agencies globally and has contributed over £1.4 million to over 50 tiger projects in seven countries worldwide.
And Tigers– Over the coming months danki will be working with media, the public, Tiger charities and key political figures, pushing for meaningful action to be taken to save Tigers before its to late.. I have donated two images– Lady Of The Lake, and Machali Standing Proud with only 100 of these limited editions framed prints available where money goes in both cases to helping wild Tigers.
There are so many animals in danger around the world where I would like to give my time and expertise but sadly there aren’t enough hours in the day. By doing something though I do feel I am doing good with the images I’ve captured,showing others the beauty of the animal, in this case the Tiger,hoping to inspire them to get outdoors and take great photos themselves, in turn helping with all wildlife here and abroad.