Many of us who have been lucky to have spotted a tiger in the wild, would vouch for the fact that it changes our outlook on wildlife. An urban dweller is suddenly reconnected to nature. The ecosystem of which
we are only a part, takes on a new significance.
Of late, there has been a hue and cry about buffer zones, tourist ban, core areas etc, all fueled by the alarming decline of our National animal.
The Forest Department controls and regulates visitor entry and holds primary responsibility for biodiversity conservation, including the tiger’s fate. Project Tiger – now legally constituted as the National
Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), has brought out some guidelines recently. Also detailed guidelines have been issued about relocating families from within core areas.
The guidelines and protocols are indeed necessary in a vast country like India where wildlife and people co-exist in close proximity. The tiger remains the main“stakeholder” in these documents. Are we ending
up protecting a paper tiger?
Protecting the tiger is symbolic of protecting our ecosystem and the protection has to permeate to each link of the web of life. We, the people of India, cannot abdicate the responsibility of protecting the
web of life by criticizing the Government,the guidelines, the tour operators and what have you.
Protecting the tiger has to happen from theground level up and the forest guide and the forest guard who remain the faceof the Government machinery as far as most tourists are concerned need to beempowered and
trained as vital links of the protection chain rather than asemployees at the bottom of the pyramid.
The voice of the guard/officer who walk the forest floor daily should determine policy, customized for each tiger reserve. In our scramble for jargon which can be upheld legally, the major stake holder ‘tiger’
often takes on a virtual if not mythical colour. If that is allowed to happen then realities are clouded and policies tend to remain on paper.
The NCTA, Ministry of Environment and Forests has published “Guidelines for Ecotourism in and around Protected Areas”which can be read at the link