From Extinction to Attraction
Nature Tourism’s role in the rise in India’s Tiger population
From Outlook Traveller cover article by Chairman TOFTigers Julian Matthews
India is rightly celebrating its success at conserving tigers with the all-India tiger census results published on July 29 showing a remarkable 33 per cent increase of its population in the last four years. That’s a beautiful headline at a time when most natural history news resembles doomsday scenarios. We must thoroughly congratulate all those behind this extraordinary turnaround.
However, we should also ask why this is happening in India (and Nepal), when the rest of Asia’s wildlife is disappearing at an alarming rate. Most other tiger-range countries, 13 in all, are experiencing tiger extinction, most rapidly and recently in the once plentiful forests of Southeast Asia.
Two bits of earlier news help illustrate the ground reality behind these figures. Firstly, Kawal Tiger Reserve in Telangana—a park nobody has ever heard of and few care about—lost its only remaining tiger to poaching last year. And secondly, another report in January this year showed the exact opposite. The government’s own scientists at the Wildlife Institute of India reported that many tiger parks (all of which I know well and have visited often) were now full of the big cats and that park authorities could not cope with any increase in population.
So why this extraordinary difference between India’s tiger reserves? Too full or completely empty?
I believe it’s largely due to economics. You could call it ‘conservation-dependent’ economics, but I call it ‘Tigernomics’. We have, in fact, turned a rural economy based on extraction of natural resources into an attraction economy where visitors now want to enjoy this same natural heritage. A remarkable reversal. The tiger population has seen an increase of 33 per cent in the July 2019 census.