What’s at stake? Rural Communities
Rural communities of bordering villages to most of South Asia’s protected areas, are the lifeblood on which conservation depends, yet they often suffer the most from wildlife encroachment on their crops and predation on their livestock. However, against all this, local communities are helping to ensure the survival of tigers and their fragile landscapes in part due to their spiritual importance, ensuring their own cultural and spiritual survival. A large number of parks are visited by millions of pilgrims, like Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, which, over its holy Ganesh festival each year, more than 2 million locals walk through the park on foot. Many parks get far more pilgrims than visitors, proving just how important these areas are to their faiths and traditions.
Ensuring that local communities are the principle beneficiaries of new rural economies, is critical in ensuring long term conservation strategies will succeed. This requires must cleverer, joined up thinking and new ways to manage these landscapes, often pioneered in other countries, where rural communities, not just governments, become the key drivers in new conservation dependant economies. Nepal has already shown this to be a successful way forward.