India lifts ban on tiger tourism
India’s top court lifted a ban on tourism in tiger reserves across the country but asked local governments to regulate visitors.
The Supreme Court had ordered a complete ban on such tourism in July while the government formulated new guidelines. It lifted the ban late on Tuesday after the government announced new rules aimed at allowing tourism to co-exist with conservation.
According to the new rules, no new tourist facilities can be created in the tiger areas and only 20 per cent of tiger habitats will be open to visitors.
India is home to more than half of the world’s estimated 3,200 tigers, with most living in wildlife reserves set up since the 1970s.
Hundreds of hotels and shops operate inside India’s tiger reserves to cater to wildlife-watching tourists.
The court had imposed the ban in July after a conservationist said critical tiger habitats should be kept safe from all types of human disturbances, including tourism.
Tour and travel operators argued that stopping tourism would encourage illegal wildlife trafficking as poachers will not be hindered by the presence of tourists.