Thursday, March 8, 2012

National Parks, Wildlife Reserves and Eco-Tourism

Faiyaz Khudsar (right) testing a home-made solar-mirror hot-plate constructed with locally available material.

> From: faiyaz Khudsar
> To: anthony_marr
> Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 7:23 PM
> Subject: ecotourism
> Hi Anthony
> I would like to share something very important. A case is filed in
> Indian supreme court to ban tourism in the core area of tiger
> reserves/ Preotected areas of India. We are trying to use this
> opportunity to see that tourism should be very regulated and money
> earned must be shared with the neighborhood communities. Now Supreme
> Court asked to bring information that what is the worldwide trend in
> this regard. I request you to share some important examples (with
> reference) where regulated tourism is helping not only wildlife but
> also supporting communities, and a complete ban on tourism may not be
> very effective from wildlife conservation as well as a community point
> of view. We will use these examples in the court. Hope to hear from
> you. Regards,
> Faiyaz A. Khudsar, Ph.D.
> Scientist Incharge
> Yamuna Biodiversity Park
> Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems
>University of Delhi


On 2/16/12, Anthony Marr wrote:

Hi Faiyaz,

Sounds like a good opportunity to make some needed changes in the Indian park system (if they haven't been made yet since I was there), especially in getting the villagers on side. But to answer your question I'll have to do
some research, especially in the national parks of N. America and Africa.
Could you give me a time frame and deadline?

Who is filing the suit?

> Anthony Marr, Founder and President
> Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
> Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)


Dear Anthony,

great to hear from you. An activist has filed a petition for a
complete ban on tourism in core area of tiger reserves. One of my
friends has filed an intervening petition suggesting very regulated
tourism which support local community. Supreme court has given three
weeks time to submitt world wide examples in this regard. Therefore,
if you send information within this time frame would be very usefull
to fulfill our long waiting desire to help tiger as well as community.

Thanks and hope to hear from you soon.




Hi Faiyaz,

You may recall that when I was at the Kanha tiger reserve back in 1997, one of the things I wanted to change was the Indian park system in regards to the park fee and how the park revenue is handled.

As I recall, the gate charge at Kanha was only about $2.50/day per foreign tourist, and a small fraction of that for domestic tourists, and that park revenue was not shared with the villagers in the Buffer Zone, which made them adversaries to the park, whereas the gate fee of the Chitwan National Park in neighbouring Nepal was 10 times that at about $25/day per foreign tourist, and the park revenue was shared about 50/50 with the villagers, which gave them incentive to cooperate in protecting the park.

I suggested strongly for India to adopt the Nepalese system. Foreign tourists spend $5000 to fly to India from half way around the world and spent upwards of $200 a night at a safari lodge for the prime purpose of seeing tigers. They are not going to skimp on $20 a day to enter the holy of holies - a national park doubling as a tiger reserve, like Bandhavgarh and Kanha.

This said, it has already inadvertently implied that ecotourism, if done right, can give the park a revenue, and also offer the surrounding villagers an income, not unlike paying them a salary to help protect the park from themselves.

Ecologically speaking, having been inside the parks numerous times myself, I have come to the conclusion that tightly regulated ecotourism does not impact negatively on the habitat nor its denizens. The rules and regulations I have personally experienced included an upper limit of tourist vehicles in the park at any given time, while those already in the park are required to stay in their vehicles, stay quiet and respectful, leave nothing behind, and pick not even a blade of grass. The vehicle drivers and guides were knowledgeable and competent. Most of the tigers I've seen were in a relaxed state, and did not appear harassed. Also, every day for an hour at noon, the park was cleared of tourists, so that the tigers could catch their siesta in peace.

If there is a special area or inner core within the park reserved for scientific and/or preservation purposes, tourists could be excluded.

Other benefits of ecotourism include word-of-mouth awareness-raising and pro-wildlife activism by the tourists themselves when they return home, and raise passion for nature preservation not only in India but worldwide.

Yet another benefit is that the presence of tourists in the park deters poaching.

If we look at other parks in other countries, we will see a certain consistency from park to park, from country to country. To illustrate this, I will compare and contrast the gate charge of the following 10 top parks:

Banff NP, Canada:
Adult $9.80/day; $68/year (pass to 27 NPs).

Algonquin PP,Canada:

Yellowstone NP, USA:
7-day entrance fee -
$25 for a private, noncommercial vehicle,
$20 for each snowmobile or motorcycle;
$12 for each visitor entering by foot, bike, ski, etc.
Annual pass, $50.

Glacier NP, USA:
7-Day Automobile/Vehicle Permit
Summer $25.00, Winter $15.00
7-Day Single Entry Permit (foot, bicycle, motorcycle, group vehicle)
Summer $12.00, Winter $10.00
Annual pass $35.

Yosemite NP, USA:
7-day pass per private vehicle - $20
Visitors on foot, horseback, bicycle, motorcycle, or on a non-commercial bus - $10
Annual pass: $40.

Masai Mara NP, Kenya:
$70 for adults non East African residents per day staying inside the park and $80 for adults non East African residents staying outside the park.

Bandhavgarh NP, India:
4,000 rupees ($80) for foreigners and 2,000 rupees ($40) for Indians at the Tala Gate, for a jeep carrying up to six people.

Kanha NP, India:
3,000 rupees ($60) per jeep (presumably for foreigners

Chitwan NP, Nepal:
per person per day:
•For Nepali Nationals Rs 20 (40 cents)
•For SAARC Nationals Rs 200 ($4)
•For Foreign Nationals Rs 500 ($10)

Kruger NP, S. Africa:
•Per Adult: ZAR 192.00 ($25)

Regardless of how the park revenue is split between the parks and the villagers, the fact remains that ecotourism is needed for any wildlife park for it to be financially sustainable, and have the budget for anti-poaching and habitat protection.

It has to be pointed out that some of the parks, like Kruger, derive revenue by allowing "big game" trophy hunting, including of elephants and lions and even rhinos. Contrary to the claim that hunting by foreigners benefit conservation in a big way, it does not. Sure, a member of the Safari Club International regularly pays over $300,000 to hunt a Black rhino, but only $1000-$3000 go to the host government in the form of a license fee. The rest go to the hunting guide-outfitter, which is often also American. In the national parks of the USA and India, hunting is not allowed.

My conclusions are as follows:

1. All parks need a budget to maintain and protect. Ecotourism is the only non-extractive industry that can provide a revenue instead of, other than and/or in addition to government subsidies.

2. A park funded entirely by government subsidies is financially unsustainable, and one funded by extractive industries (logging, mining, hunting) is ecologically unsustainable.

3. Other than the entrance fee, parks also derive revenue from a range of activities including guided hikes, park drives, canoeing, skiing, vehicle rentals, horseback rides, etc. There are usually discounts for children, seniors, families and groups. These are clearly long-standing infrastructures.

4. Not only can ecotourism generate revenue for the parks, it can also produce income for the surrounding communities by 1. sharing a part of the park revenue and, 2. by their own tourism industry targeting the ecotourists.

All in all, ecotourism, but only unobstrusive, tightly regulated, and non-extractive ecotourism (i.e. no hunting), is essential for the long term survival, continuity, stability and prosperity of a large wildlife park.

Anthony Marr and Faiyaz Khudsar with solar oven at Kanha NP, India.

Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)

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