July 16, 2009
Reports from India this week have suggested that Panna National Park has ‘run out’ of tigers, a further blow to the country’s efforts to preserve the status of its fabled predator. We contacted two of our Indian-operating clients for their thoughts.
Paul Bondsfield at adventure specialists Explore:
“While none of our tours take in Panna National Park, we at Explore are very saddened to once again hear that tiger numbers are reportedly dwindling. That a national park should lose its entire population of tigers is a definite blow to conservation efforts, and a further prompt for tourism to be at the forefront of activity to save the overall population.
“Working with Travel Operators for Tigers (TOFT), Explore is keen that Indian authorities recognise the benefits that tourists can bring, which include funding but also a visibility to these animals and an incentive for local people to help save animals and environment from poaching and clearing. The recent decision to ban tourists from some areas is a mistake in our view – if regular game viewing is in progress, then monitoring numbers of animals would be made easier and any reduction in numbers noticed quickly.”
Oliver James, part of the India team at Real Holidays, which tailor-makes itineraries taking in Panna:
“We have had an inkling – and told customers as much – that Panna was pretty much tiger-free for a while. There are actually two tigresses still at Panna – they were relocated there in April, after to the latest census but prior to the results recently coming out, which showed that there were no other tigers left. Much the same thing happened at Sariska, the other Indian park which has ceased to have tigers.
“There’s still ample reason to go: Panna is generally considered a beautiful park, renowned for fabulous birding and as a good place to see leopards. It fits in nicely on wildlife circuits, and will probably be more appealing to Indian veterans now there’s no danger of the tiger-spotting hordes visiting.
“However, this can only be considered bad news in terms of the Indian government’s well-documented attempts to protect their figurehead animal. It’s hard to know how successful or otherwise Project Tiger is, such is the level of conflicting information out there. Previously the Government has announced official tiger numbers across Indian parks only to withdraw them after admitting census errors. Reserves that claim to be poacher-free still lose tigers; some are killed if they threaten or attack local villages, for instance. Bandhavgarh NP reported a recent rise in the birth-rate of its tigers – great news, but not one accompanied by figures of tiger numbers in general rising, suggestive that at Bandhavgarh, adult tigers were possibly being killed as quickly as younger ones were conceived.
“Amid such a minefield of information and misinformation, we try to recommend those lodges that are more active in supporting local projects – such as Jungle Mantra at Bandhavgarh. These are generally schemes to help the local/displaced village populations and get them involved in supporting and protecting wildlife areas, so protection is a genuine source of income.” Richard Mellor