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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he launch of a new research study on Ranthambhore at the TOFTigers Wildlife Tourism Awards, commissioned by the TOFTigers charity and Baavan, highlights its remarkable success over the fifteen years – since the threats of extinction of its main attraction, the tiger, at the start of the millennium.
The park has both raising the tiger numbers to a total of close to 70 individual wild tigers spread across more restored natural habitat than ever before, as well as exciting an increasing number of visitors each year, without any impact on the wild cat numbers.
Today this famous Tiger reserve is effectively self-sufficient, earning more money from park entrance fees nearly ₹19.7 crore in 2016/17 than given to it by both the state and central government and its visitors aid the rural economy of Sawai Madhopur to the tune of ₹217.2 crore per annum in lodgings and services, making it a crucial economy to the whole region and to the State Government. It employs over 2200 in hospitality services alone.
As the report’s main author, well known Tiger ecologist, Dr Raghu Chundawat states, “This is a great conservation success story. Tigers are doing really well, and tourism is being a positive benefit in ensuring its success. It highlights the fact that unlike the usual negative perception of tourism, it is infact an important conservation tool, creating funds for park protection, generating sustainable jobs and new livelihood opportunity, raising living, health and educational standards and decreasing forest dependency – and – best of all – not harming tigers. Well done to Ranthambhore.”
The report highlights that nature tourism is recognised as one of the United Nations Sustainable Development tools, and the study goes onto show that 70% of the jobs created are from local community (or 90% if you include the whole Rajasthan state) and 55% of all tourism revenues stay within the local area. Furthermore locally owned enterprises, like transport, and retail units who live within the sphere of this industry generate 4 times more revenue than those same one’s in non-tourism areas, highlighting that the old argument – that nature tourism only benefits the rich and its visitors – is simply not correct, and such nature based tourism can ensure a nature friendly neighbourhood on the borders of parks.
Chairman of TOFTigers, Julian Matthews, is delighted with the findings. “The report further illustrates that nature tourism is increasingly important as a job creator, a rural livelihood opportunity and a powerful wildlife and conservation tool. This study comes at an opportune time when the government is looking at a new ecotourism policy to help communities and parks. The authorities in Ranthambhore deserve our wholehearted congratulations.”
However, the report also set out a summary of the challenges that the park still faces to ensure a sustainable future for both people and wildlife in the area, and ensure the enormous benefits can be enjoyed by more and more rural communities bordering parks and wildernesses across South Asia over the coming years.
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