Conservation, Development and Tourism: Testing Times for Tigers

This source preferred by Susanna Curtin

Authors: Curtin, S.

Start date: 30 September 2011

The study of tourism is highly dynamic as the economic, political, cultural and social landscape in which it takes place evolves considerably over time. Much has been written about the political economy of conservation and indeed of tourism itself; of a social discourse that sees environmental protection in isolation from the people it impacts upon. Visits to India’s national parks were once dominated by white, wealthy middle class tourists in pursuit of iconic fauna. Today, recent research indicates that the vast majority of visitors to India’s tiger reserves are indeed Indian. Growth in income and a burgeoning middle class has increased India’s demand for nature-based tourism. This has swelled visitation to a point where it presents new challenges for park management and new challenges for the protection of the tiger which has become a depressing symbol of negative and irreversible anthropogenic impacts. Using desk research and in-depth interviews with operators and tourists, this paper will discuss the issues of conservation versus economic development for local people. It highlights the wider problems of tiger conservation as well as the positive relationship between tourism and tiger conservation; providing, of course, suitable management practices are enforced. However it casts doubt on the direct economic income and opportunities for local people given the high population densities around the protected areas; neither of which augur well for Panthera tigris.

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