Can Tourism Save India’s Tigers

Tiger Habitat Under Siege

As India’s tiger population dwindles more each year due to poaching and habitat loss, tiger tourism is picking up.

With a single safari in Tadoba now costing a minimum Rs 4,100 on weekdays and Rs 4,600 on holidays and weekends, the park management has thought of providing a mini bus for ordinary tourists.

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“We have received quotations from two companies and are waiting for a couple more. The minibus, estimated to cost Rs 12 lakh, will be a 24-seat, 4-wheel vehicle and operate from popular Moharli gate. A six-wheel regular bus is not allowed inside Tadoba,” said Virendra Tiwari, chief conservator of forests (CCF) & field director of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve.

“Tickets in the bus would not be priced beyond Rs 200 per person and is expected to be launched when winter session of assembly is held at Nagpur. The project will be run by Tiger Conservation Foundation (TCF),” said Girish Vashisht, divisional forest officer (DFO).

From October 16, when Tadoba opened fully, excursion in the park has become costly and beyond the reach of common man. Gate fee per safari is Rs 750 for six persons on weekdays. It is Rs 1,000 for weekends and holidays. In addition you pay guide fee of Rs 300. If you have a camera of 250mm focal length, then an additional Rs 500 is charged. If you are taking your private vehicle an additional Rs 1,000 is charged. If you hire a Gypsy, the charge is about Rs 2,000 per safari.

“Taking into account all costs including accommodation and food, a Tadoba excursion costs over Rs 10,000 per day. This may deter middle class tourists from visiting Tadoba as often as they would like. The idea of mini bus sounds good,” said Girish Khorgade of Nature and Wildlife Conservation Society (NWCS). Similar buses should be operated from Kolara and Navegaon gates too, he demanded.

Vashisht said launch of additional buses would depend on success of one being started from Moharli. “The vehicle will be run on ‘no profit, no loss’ basis. There will be no online booking for the bus. It will be on first-come-first-served basis at the gate,” Vashisht informed.

There is a plan to conduct two safaris in morning and one in the evening. The bus will move on all the available routes including spots like Telia. “The bus will be a good choice for NGOs who organize nature camps for students and schools,” said Vashisht.

In 1998, a mini bus service between Chandrapur-Moharli-Tadoba shut down owing to lack of demand. “However, things have changed in Tadoba since then. Tiger sightings have improved over the years following various steps taken during the last decade. Now you can sight tigers anywhere in Tadoba all round the year. The project will be good for common man,” says Bandu Dhotre, president of Eco-Pro.

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Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation.

Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information

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