Winners of 2010 TOFT Wildlife Tourism Awards

The TOFT Wildlife Tourism Awards 2010 were a great success on the lawn of The British High Commissioners Residency in New Delhi on Thursday 30th September. A large gathering of the wildlife tourism trade members, together with a range of park managers, experts and conservationists gathered together to celebrate the first ever awards designed to highlight the very best operators, providers, experts and individuals making a difference in support Forest and Tiger conservation through the use of responsible and sustainable Wildlife Tourism.

The organiser and Chairman of TOFT, Julian Matthews, commented. “We were delighted with the event, very impressed with the work being done by all the shortlisted nominees, but especially congratulate the winners on the night. These are the very finest examples of what is happening in India nature tourism industry, and they are an example to us all. They all raise the bar in how we can combine saving nature with allowing people to see it, enjoy it and care for it.”

The 2010 HSBC – TOFT Wildlife Tourism Awards are intended to:

  • Highlight the important work being done by the tourism industry in support of tiger and forest conservation
  • Increase awareness of responsible tourism as a force in conservation and habitat renewal
  • Reward and encourage best practice operations
  • Encourage sustainability in tourism enterprises
  • Promote community enterprises and initiatives around Tiger Parks.

Click here to view the TOFT Awards 2010 Press Release

The Winners and Runners up in each Award Categories for 2010 are:-

Lodge Naturalist of the Year 2010

(The Award includes a prize of INR 15,000)

Award sponsored by Abercrombie & Kent India
WINNER: Kartikeya Singh Chauhan – Mahua Kothi, Bandhavgarh, MP

The judges commented: Kartikeya is an exceptionally gifted naturalist and biologist, one in which any lodge would be privileged to have. Even though he is quietly spoken, he is often assigned as the guide to special visitors to the Tajsafaris lodge from where he operates.

Many of his endorsements come from experts in various fields of wildlife from across the globe, but also more tellingly, from lodge competitors in Bandavgrah. He is also a wildlife researcher, whose acclaimed research was on the desert wolves of Rajasthan.

Visitors endorsed his continued attention to details in the field when guiding. If he does not know the answer – he always finds out and tells the guest later.

JOINT RUNNERS UP: Jagat Narain Chaturvedi – Tiger’s Den Resort, Bandhavgarh – MP

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The Billy Arjun Singh Memorial Award for best Wildlife Guide of the Year 2010(The Award includes a prize of INR 15,000)

Award sponsored by Greaves Travel of UK, US & India
WINNER: Rajesh Kumar Dwivedi, Bandhavgarh, MP

Judges Comments: Rajesh is his own man and is a forceful representative for the park and his community. He is tenacious in seeking the truth of what is happening in ‘his’ park, taking the authorities in court in one poaching cover up in 2000. He won the case and was reinstated as a guide. This tenacity apart, he is a very good naturalist, well liked amongst his colleagues, always leads by example, is knowledgeable and still by the gate each day to take visitors through the park. He is today the embodiment of what a park guide should be.

JOINT RUNNERS UP: Mujibur Rehman (Salim Ali) , Ranthambhore, Rajasthan

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The John Wakefield Memorial Award for most Inspirational Eco Lodge of the Year 2010

Award sponsored by Polar Quest of Sweden
WINNER: Camp Forktail Corbett – Utterakhand

Ritish and Minakshi pioneered a great approach to their lodge, with their simplistic, personally run mud hut and tented camp over eight year ago. The whole concept of design, wildlife friendliness and involvement with their local community can be seen and felt as soon as you come into camp.

Their ecofriendly practice are visible and the difference can be seen instantly. 90% of staff are local, from the next door village just a few hundred metres away, and so too many of the guides and naturalists who they employ. The camp which was barren land in 2002, now attracts more than 200 species of birds and endangered species. So good is the birdlife that they even have a popular bird hide. Elephants and tigers often move in and around the camp. Only natural lighting and lanterns are used at night. A lot of nature walking is done, and the owners are perpetually engaged in raising funds for conservation or raising key issues with parks or other bodies. Guests come as clients but leave as part of camp’s family and return many times back to the camp. They received TOFT’s Outstanding PUG rating for ecological, economical and social sustainability.

If all lodges where this good and this ecologically sensitive and well managed, India would have unbeatable wildlife tourism business.

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Visitor Friendly Wildlife Destination of the Year 2010(The Award includes a prize of INR 50,000 worth of equipment to be used in tiger protection/conservation)

Satpura National park, Madhya Pradesh

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.

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Wildlife and Tourism Award of the Year 2010(The Award includes a prize of INR 25000 towards equipment/services for the benefit of the winning community)

Award sponsored by Steppes Discovery of the UK
WINNER: Help Tourism – North East and Bengal

Judges comments: Help Tourism is a fascinating ecotourism business, with both private and NGO aspirations. It supported community owned tourism lodges in many places including Manas National Park with the Bodo tribal leaders. Since 1992 their efforts have reaped rewards and now include such lodges and carefully constructed itineraries in Assam, North Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh. Furthermore they are a unique business, both lodge and tour operators, operating in the conservation and community space, in off the beaten track and more remote regions. This award would highlight their team’s excellent approach to private sector’s partnership with a dedicated mission, in its key destinations.

JOINT RUNNERS UP: Mangalajodi Ecotourism Project Orissa

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Wildlife Promotion Company of the Year 2010

Judges Comments. Increasingly Indian agents are reacting to the demands of worldwide nature travellers to ensure more responsible and insightful itineraries, with top experts. These three companies have taken measurable steps to effect such an approach as ‘middlemen’, developing insightful relations with lodge owners and service providers that go beyond mere cost, but also demanding and then offering new and more ecofriendly nature and community based experiences for their clients to enjoy.

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Wildlife Tourism Community Initiative of the Year 2010(The Award includes a prize of INR 25,000)

Award sponsored by The Blue Yonder of Bangalaru
WINNER: Village Ways – Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, Utterakhand

Judges comments: This is an superb example of a private business setting up real ecotourism enterprise in a Himalayan Wildlife Sanctuary, in which the mountain village communities have a real stakehold in the community rest homes that are carefully designed, built and services by each village community. The effect on these pretty villages has been extraordinary – an end to youth migration, responsible job creation and better and more sustainable income sources. The result is a complete turn in the wildlife and birdlife in the sanctuary. They carried 600 visitors on treks last year.

JOINT RUNNERS UP: Eaglenest, Kaati Trust Arunachal Pradesh

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Details on the next 2011/12 TOFT WILDLIFE TOURISM AWARDS & how to nominate – details will be published in January 2011.