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India to ban tiger tourism?

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30 April 2010

Speaking to The Times newspaper, Dr Rajesh Gopal, head of India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority said tourism is to be phased out in the core regions of the 37 tiger reserves.

"We should not forget that tiger reserves are primarily for conserving the endangered tiger and tourism is just a secondary outcome," he said.

"Our reserves are small and prone to disturbance caused by tourism. They cannot compete with large African savannah parks, which can stand large number of tourists.

"The Environment Ministry has ordered India’s states to wind down tourism in such regions and tightly regulate it in the surrounding regions...people who live in core tiger habits will be moved."

Many see the latest announcement as yet another example of the Indian Government’s historic inability or unwillingness to properly managed tiger tourism.

A spokesman for the India Tourist Board in London would not comment on the proposed ban, but said he expected a written confirmation from the Tourist Ministry within weeks.

The country’s Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, said earlier this month that unregulated tourism was as much a threat to tiger populations as poaching and would clamp down on ‘mushrooming luxury resorts around tiger reserves’.

Illegal poaching of tigers for use in traditional Chinese medicine products is blamed by many as the prime cause of tiger loss and many experts agree that radical action is needed to save the iconic species.

A count in 2008 put India’s tiger population at 1,411, down from 3,642 in 2002, but some experts dispute these figures and claim the number of remaining wild tigers is closer to 800, with the threat of extinction within five years.

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