Ecology careers in ecotourism

In the tiger reserves of central India, fleets of four‐wheel‐drive vehicles carrying tourists hurtle over the dirt roads, causing substantial disturbance to wildlife. At the same time, however, the government agency that manages the reserves relies on tourist entry fees, which are more immediate and reliable than government budget allocations, to compensate local residents for any livestock killed by tigers. Frequently, these residents live and work immediately outside the reserves, and in some cases inside them. The local people know where the tigers are, and can lead poachers to them, or steer them away. That choice determines the tigers’ fate, and it depends directly on those entry fees. From a single‐species conservation standpoint, the benefits of tourist fees outweigh the costs of disturbance from tourism.

At the office of the Park Director for one of the reserves, a local woman was waiting to make a claim. Her husband had been killed by a tiger when he tried to defend their cattle, which he had been grazing in the park. His widow was entitled to a substantial lump sum in compensation. Without the fees from ecotourists, the Director would not have had funds to pay this compensation. He was also using these funds to build fences along sections of the reserve boundary closest to villages, to keep cattle out of the reserve. Shortly afterwards, the Indian Supreme Court convened to determine whether tourism in tiger reserves should be banned, because of disturbance from vehicles. Given the importance of tourism revenue in mitigating the effects of human–wildlife conflict, they decided not to invoke a ban.

To read the rest of this article in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, please click here.

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