In July last year, the Indian Supreme Court banned tourism in the core areas of 41 tiger reserves in an attempt to protect the 1,700 tigers in the country. Three months later, the court reversed its decision but told the state-managed reserves to abide by new guidelines drafted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
Since then, the guidelines, which call for restricting tourism to 20 percent of the parks’ core areas and limit construction in the tigers’ primary habitat, have created confusion among states over how to interpret the ministry’s vague mandates. Much is at stake in these interpretations, as one Ranthambhore tigress can generate some $130 million in direct tourism revenue in her adult life, according to one estimate.
“Some states have not changed much — they have carried on what they were doing earlier,” said Krishna Kumar Singh, a founding member of the Ecotourism Society of India, a nonprofit organization that promotes environmentally responsible tourism. “Some states have implemented these guidelines in a way that has restricted tourism to quite an extent.” The interpretation of the rules might even vary within different state parks, he said.
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