Judges comment. We were looking for a Tiger Reserve of Wildlife Sanctuary that can be an inspiration to others in the way that it had used tourism and tourism activities to effect better conservation measures, enhanced wildlife viewing experiences and supported local communities. Satpura National Park, is in the process of doing this.
The Madhya Pradesh Forest Department has laid down a high ‘value’ - low impact template for this reserve, formulated in MP’s Wildlife (Protection) Rules, which reflect their long term commitment to this concept .Its aim is not to become a Tiger centric reserve, but instead offer longer elephant based sorties, excellent walks opportunities carried out by trained local guides trained by a private operator and done within the park boundaries. Furthermore ecofriendly waterborne activities like kayaking are starting. A pioneering Public/Private partnership agreement has also been established whereby a number of jeeps have been donated to the park for tourists use with revenue accruing to the park and the local community, but these vehicles can be used in the downtimes and off season for anti poaching roles.
If the Park authorities can work with tourism in such a proactive way, offer a range of wildlife watching activities and imbue responsible practices and operations from the very start of Satpura’s growth as visitor destination, then Satpura has a good chance of avoiding the high volume/high impact scenarios we see in most other parks today.
We must encourage such mutually beneficial working partnerships between conservation and tourism and hence we have given them a Highly Commended Award.