DELHI: TOFTigers, a leading NGO in the wildlife and nature tourism sector issued a call for the nature tourism industry to extend its vital role in protecting India’s natural heritage and re-wildling denuded landscapes, in the wake of a global study revealing that humans have destroyed a tenth of the earth’s wilderness in just 25 years.
This was announced during the TOFTigers Awards at the British High Commissioner’s residence recently in Delhi, to recognize the very best companies, parks and individuals including tour operators, eco lodges, naturalists and wildlife guides using nature tourism as a wildlife restoration, educational and protection tool, reports Business Standard.
India is one of the world’s most bio-diverse countries, its forests and ecosystems providing vital natural services from clean air and water to flood prevention and soil fertility as well as high economic returns from recreation and tourism, one of the government’s key growth industries.
Yet the power of well-planned sustainable nature tourism remains badly understood and planned for by Government and industry, and viewed with suspicion by some of the conservation sector.
A WWF and Cambridge University study recently concluded that for every 1 rupee invested in conservation today, 67 rupees is being returned economically – an astounding return on ‘conservation investment’.
“TOFTigers’ vision is to catalyse a new movement of support for nature conservation, local rural communities and re-wilding through the power of well-run nature tourism – particularly relevant as next year is the United Nations’ Year of Sustainable Tourism.” says Julian Matthews, Founder Chairman of nature tourism action charity, TOFTigers.
“Governments should think ‘Smart Forests’ like we have ‘Smart cities’ in India with really targeted investment in protecting wild landscapes, in the people surrounding them, and the corridors that connect them. Allowing citizens to enjoy them in a sustainable way brings benefits to local communities and reaps extraordinary ecological and economic returns that far outweigh the costs. We’re hoping the Awards will inspire a new era of cooperation between the tourism industry, NGOs and government across the country.”
Winners and Runners Up at the TOFTigers Awards
The Billy Arjan Singh Memorial Award for Wildlife Guide of the Year 2016
Lodge Naturalist of the Year 2016
Dr Chuck McDougal Visitor Friendly Wildlife Destination of the Year 2016
Wildlife and Tourism Initiative of the Year 2016
Wildlife Tourism Related Community Initiative of the Year 2016
International Wildlife Tour Operator of the Year 2016
Wildlife Promotion Company of the Year 2016
Up and Coming Excellence in Nature Award 2016
The John Wakefield Memorial Award for Most Inspirational Eco Lodge of the Year 2016