Tiger Day 2017: Responsible Tourism Can Help Save the Tigers

On July 29th the world celebrates International Tiger Day for the 7th year. As all most of these recurrences, it’s a bitter-sweet reminder of our flawed relationship with wildlife. On one hand, we celebrate the beauty of nature and one of the most admired animals in the world, an animal which has come to incarnate powerful myths throughout the history of humankind. On the other hand, we are reminded of their impending extinction, caused by us, of course. 

Since the dawn of civilization the tiger has had a central role in all Asian cultures. In Nepalese mythology she is the symbol of unlimited power that protects virtue against evil. In Chinese folklore, the tiger represent the masculine power, the good king that protects good men against evil. In more modern times, we have Shere Khan, Tony the Tiger and Tigger.  

According to recent data, the total tiger population is 3,890 animals around the world. Last year for the first time in a century that number has increased thanks to the efforts to protect them and conserve their habitat. However, that was just the first step in a long way towards recovery for this species. The main threats to tigers have not been eliminated, the battle for the survival of the tigers continues and, given the nature of the dangers, it must involve a variety of subjects to be effective.

Loss of Habitat  

Tiger are losing their natural habitat as forests are destroyed to make space for human activities such as agriculture and new settlements. The booming Asian economy has also brought about a significant expansion of Asian infrastructure, as a consequence new roads have been built and they split up the tiger territories making more difficult for them to hunt their prey and mate.

The WWF has been particularly active to preserve these fragile habitats. Employing the most advanced scientific tool and research, they have been focusing their efforts on areas where the density of prey and tigers is the highest. Tiger corridors that link several sites are an important part of their project. Another essential part of the solution is the education of local communities in the preservation work. Since 2002, the Wildlife Protection Society of India  has established a community outreach program in the Sundarbarns region. The aim is to educate villagers living around the Tiger Reserve to view wildlife and their environment as an asset rather than a threat and to get involved in the efforts to preserve it.

Poaching 

Poaching is the most immediate threat for tigers. One third of tiger deaths is caused by poachers. Just a few days ago Indian conservationists have sounded the alarm of a rising number of tiger deaths this year. They are killed for trophy hunting or for commercial use because their body parts are ingredients of popular remedies in Chinese medicine.  In India, penalties for poachers have been enacted since 1972, but most of the cases brought to court are still pending. The illegal trade of tiger parts is now widespread and controlled by organized crime. A tiger can be killed for as little as just over a dollar for the cost of poison, or $9 for a steel trap. Much of the tiger poaching is done by locals who know their territory. Those hunters are usually paid a very small amount (in 1994, a trader paid four poachers $15 each for killing a tiger, it is the traders and the middlemen who make substantial profits from the illegal trade in tiger parts. That’s another reason why it is crucial to educate local communities to the value of their habitat.

Climate Change  

Climate change is also a factor that is going to affect the loss of territory for the Indian tiger. According to a study by the WWF, in Sundarbarns, one of the largest tiger reserves , the sea level is projected to rise about a foot by 2070 and as a result it could significantly reduce the tiger habitat in that region.

How  responsible tourism can help preserve tiger’s habitat

Because of its impact on natural habitat, tourism has its share of responsibility in the increasing difficulties faced by wildlife and endangered species.  For example, avoid at all costs tours where animals are manhandled and kept in cages to show to tourists, animals should live free in their territory.

However, tourism can also be part of the solution. It can promote international awareness of the threats to wildlife, there is nothing better than being close to a problem to know it. And eco-conscious travelers can bring back that knowledge back home and inspire others to help the cause. Responsible tourism also helps local communities to understand the value of the natural resources and wildlife of their territory.  As in the case of the tigers sometimes it is a love-hate relationship or a relationship based on past natural equilibrium that has been forever lost with the technological advances of the human civilization. That’s why when traveling for wildlife sightseeing it is crucial to choose carefully the destination and the local guides.

Where to stay

Kanha lodge eco resort near tiger reserve
Ph: Kanha Lodge

Bandhavgarh Jungle Lodge and Kanha Jungle Lodge are two Indian eco-resorts that are actively engaged in the protection of tigers. All their wildlife tours are accompanied by a resident naturalist who helps the guests to understand the surrounding eco-system and introduces them to the local communities and culture.

Bamboo Forest Safari Eco Lodge near tiger reserve
ph: Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge

On the shore on the Maasal lake and  next to the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, the Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge also offers an immersive experience in the opulent nature of the region, while striving to maintain the balance with surrounding habitat and raising awareness on its delicate balance.

Spice Village Eco resort near tiger reserve
ph: Spice Village

Scented with cinnamon, cardamom and wildflowers, the slopes of the Periyar region are one of the tiger favorite habitats. And that’s exactly where The Spice Village is located. Inspired by mountain tribal villages of the Cardamom Hills that have perfected a gentle codependence with the surrounding wildlife, the resort has been designed for modern travelers who are looking to discover a timeless corner of the world while helping to preserve it.

Wayaj Eco-Rating System for Hotels and Resorts

The Wayaj rating system was created to solve some of the issues with green hotel rating systems.  The first issue is that rating systems can be very complicated. This makes it difficult for hotels to comply with the rating system and for guests to appreciate it.  Our rating system is thorough yet concise.  Another issue was that many rating systems were created using subjective or arbitrary guidelines and thresholds without any evidence. This means that many hotels were receiving rating that they shouldn’t have (good or bad).  Our rating system was created by a sustainable professional with a background in green buildings. Also, many rating systems require too little or too much verification to confirm their rating.  Our rating system was created with this in mind to ensure that hotels have an easy time in submitting their hotel to our community.  In addition, our rating system needs to be verified on two ends.  The first is with data from the hotel and the second is from the hotel guests.
There are several categories that we determined as the most important when considering which green hotel to book with, community, water, management, energy, purchasing of products, waste, and indoor environment.

Community

In many areas, tourism is a major contributor to economic success. The goal is to drive tourism to low income areas of the world to reduce poverty, increase standard of living, spread the ideas of sustainable development issues to locals and travelers, and expose travelers to local culture and values.
In addition, negative impacts on the community such as traffic and its associated environmental, economic, and societal impacts should be avoided and reduced as much as possible.

Water

Hotels consume water for a variety of reasons including drinking, cleaning, bathing, cooking, waste removal, heating, and cooling. Due to the luxurious nature of hotels, much of this consumption is used for leisure or wasted.  Depending on the hotels location, this high-volume consumption can strain, deplete and contaminate the local water system.
The goal of this section is to implement the use of different technologies and programs to reduce water consumption, reuse water when possible, use natural sources of water, and practice sound wastewater treatment.

Management

It is difficult to make progress without proper leadership and planning.  Without sustainable management, employees can be mistreated and discriminated against. In addition, managers have the power to make sustainability a requirement for all employees. This makes the coordination and implementation of sustainable practices much easier.
The goal of this section is to provide a safe, healthy, and non-discriminatory work place for all genders, races, religions, social classes, and so on.  This section also rewards those that provide sustainability education to its employees.

Energy

Energy is one of the most significant contributors to human caused climate change and environmental destruction.  Clean, localized energy sources can improve energy reliability, national security, and human and environmental health conditions.
The goal of this credit is to reduce energy consumption as much as possible and use clean, reliable sources for the remaining electrical load.

Purchasing

Hotels need a constant in flow of materials in order to meet the needs and demands of guests in the overall operation of the hotel.  These products are often purchased from distant locations, which contributes to transportation related air emissions. In addition, many products are created from unsustainable supply chains.
The goal of this section is to promote the use of locally manufactured products and to purchase materials that have a sustainably sourced supply chain.

Waste

Hotels produce a lot of waste over their lifetime.  Each day, products are consumed and sent to landfills and incinerators, both of which can have human and environmental health issues.  In addition, the extraction of raw materials can lead to resource depletion.   If materials were used for efficiently, recycled, reused, and composted, these issues can be largely resolved.
The goal of this section is to practice sound waste management techniques in order to cut down on the need for new materials and waste sent to landfills and incinerators.

Indoor Environment

Humans spend a significant portion of their day indoors.  If the indoor area has poor quality, it could lead to a declination of health, satisfaction, and well-being.
The goal of this section is to promote the quality and management of the indoor environment in order to provide high guest satisfaction, health, and well-being.