Overbearing tourism at Corbett Tiger Reserve - Photo by PRERNA SINGH BINDR (see link below)
Uncontrolled tourism and attendant construction of accommodation and tourist activity centres (unrelated to seeing tigers) will gradually turn the most successful Bengal tiger reserve into a glorified zoo. The Corbett Tiger Reserve's success is destroying it. This is sadly typical of human behavior.
A Bengal tiger reserve is meant to be a large protected natural environment suited to the tiger. It is a place where the tiger can behave naturally and where tourists can see this increasingly rare sight - the "wilderness experience". The first reason for the existence of a tiger reserve is to conserve the tiger. A distant second objective is to make money out of that, usually through tourism. The secondary objective should not undermine the primary objective. That is surely common sense.
But this delicate balance between a tiger behaving naturally and people watching requires careful management and control. Sadly it appears that tourism has gradually got out of control at the Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR). The relationship between tiger and tourist is out of balance.
The reason why there is too much construction and unregulated tourism at CTR is the usual one: a combination of greedy business and corrupt or, let's say, less than scrupulous politics (before someone criticises me for saying that: yes, politicians are corrupt in the UK too, sometimes).
I am not saying that all businesses in India concerned with tourism are greedy and show a disregard for the tiger's survival. Nor am I saying that all politicians in India are corrupt. I am saying that the pressure to make a profit tends to lead business and politics to cooperate in activities that damages wildlife by breaching regulations designed to protect wildlife. Of course, in the long run, in damaging the CTR business will lose out. But business and politics tends to be shortsighted and think short term.
There are many examples of overbearing tourism damaging the CTR. You can read about them in an excellent article written by PRERNA SINGH BINDRA entitled: Report on impact of tourism on tigers and other wildlife in Corbett Tiger Reserve. If you are concerned about the conservation of the Bengal tiger, indeed its survival, this document will provide a nice insight.
Typical examples that illustrate how unregulated tourism activity can damage the prospects for survival of the Bengal tiger are as follows:
Infrastructure projects block corridors through which tigers and elephants can move. These animals need this space to behave naturally and the corridors connect one area to another thereby extending available space. One such example is the blocking of the CTR with adjoining forests. The resorts at Dhikuli are partly to blame. The map below shows the proximity of Dhikuli to the CTR:
The development of Dhikuli is being copied at other sites bordering the CTR. This is what happens. If government allows unregulated building it encourages further building. Even when building is allowed under lax planning legislation the same problems will ensue.
Unauthorised building and landscaping appears to be taking place inside the reserve as well. An example is the flouting of building regulations by businesses running fishing lodges within the reserve.
Also where corridors are narrowed by building activity etc. unscrupulous tourism businesses are using these sites as place where tigers can be seen because tigers are forced close to people at these points. In addition tigers are being baited so that they are attracted to certain places where tourists congregate. It is all very artificial and zoo-like; hardly a wilderness experience.
There are many other examples.
In addition the sheer number of tourists becomes problematic. High numbers of tourists chasing a glimpse of a poor tiger creates pressures on wardens, taking them away from conservation and habituates the tiger to human activity leading to unnatural behavior, even attacks on people. This is just what tourists don't want to see neither is it what the reserves where designed to do - provide a safe, natural habitat for tiger. The CTR is not meant to be a zoo.
P.S. to anyone who thinks that I have no right to criticise I say this: I have referred to the work of an Indian scientist and author and secondly I hold up my hands and freely admit that Britain is a disaster in respect of natural wildlife habit. We are way ahead of India in killing off wildlife.