First, a note: Since the beginning of this blog, no other issue that we have explored here has more closely aligned with one of our tours than does this one. At the risk of seeming self-serving, it is important to understand that even before we knew about TOFTigers, we developed our Precious Journeys® India: Saving Tigers precisely for this reason.
Now, on to the blog.
Tyger, tyger burning bright… She is absolutely gorgeous as she steps noiselessly out of the brush and onto the trail. The largest member of the cat family, the Bengal tiger walks casually past disappearing into the jungle as silently as she appeared.
An encounter like this is something most us will sadly never experience. She is one of a shrinking global population of tigers in the wild, estimated to be around 3,890, according to the World Wildlife Fund. This is down some 97%, from around 100,000 at the start of the 20th century.
These graceful creatures once ranged widely across eastern Eurasia. They could be found from the Black Sea, to the Indian Ocean, and from Kolyma to Sumatra. Over the last century, tigers have lost a massive 93% of their historic range. Today, they are limited to 13 countries in Asia and the Orient, including India Bhutan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos and Russia.
Major reasons for the population decline include habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation and poaching. The extent of area occupied by tigers is estimated to have declined a whopping 41% just since the mid-1990s.
These territorial animals are apex predators, preying mostly on ungulates such as deer and bovids. Tigers are solitary but still social animals, and need large areas of habitat to support their prey requirements. But they are indigenous to some of the more densely populated places on earth, which has, of course, lead to significant conflicts with humans.
Big Five has joined with the nonprofit organization TOFTigers in its global campaign to support wildlife conservation on the Indian subcontinent through better planned and more sustainable tourism practices. TOFTigers seeks to plan and promote the best practices of nature tourism both inside and outside protected areas.
“We decided this platform was needed, because so far the only response has been to ban all forms of nature tourism in India,” says Ashish Sanghrajka, president of Big Five. “A ban is not the answer. We believe our partnership with TOFTigers is the right avenue to do our part in preserving what is left of the endangered species in India.”
Experience and research show that responsible wildlife and nature tourism can provide an invaluable platform to support and sustain parks, wildlife conservancies, buffer zones and local communities. It can also play an important role in poverty eradication through education and employment. It is critical that local communities become stakeholders, rather than conservation victims, in the battle to save India’s forests and wildlife. Join us on TOFTigers.
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