I probably should have posted this before I left, but I’m in India visiting family. My thesis has come along too and I can now say that I’ve written a bit of my thesis practically in a nature reserve. Where, incidentally, I saw rhinos, deer, wild boar, elephants and a tiger! The tiger was stunning – all power and sleekness and muscles shifting under the brightest red-gold fur I’ve ever seen.
My thoughts on eco-tourism are complicated – at what point does it become too indulgent, is it okay to invade habitats with tourism, does it support the kind of human enroachment that threatens these habitats? but on the other hand, tourism helps people see the reserves and wildlife within them as valuable (which has all sorts of effects, including helping locals feel protective towards their nearby reserve and so defend wildlife against poachers), gets the government to protect the reserve because it brings in tourists and their money, and brings in money to fund the reserve, pay rangers and so on. The people running the hotel we stayed with did outreach in local schools during the rainy season when the park is closed and clearly cared about the reserve and those living within it. Without tourism, there’s a risk that the reserves wouldn’t exist, wouldn’t have support from the local community and there would be more exploitation of the reserves – poaching, logging, grazing and so on.
As valuable as zoos are with their captive breeding programs, reintroducing species back into the wild and conservation work, they were miles away from seeing this tiger easily lope across the road, glowng in the late afternoon sun, and disappearing into the grass and shrubs. For tigers to become extinct in the wild would take something precious from them.