In our mythologies and story books like Jataka tales and Panchatantra, we have been repeated taught that man, animal and plant are meant to coexist together. The world view propagated was that all living beings are part of this living and dynamic universe. As we became more and more westernised, we started to discriminate between human and other living things like animals, plants and even mother earth. We were taught, everything in this world is for consumption of humans. During British times, animals were hunted down and their head was considered a trophy to be decorated in the living rooms of rich and powerful. This practice continued even after India became independent. Today, situation is such that number of tigers and many wild animals, that used to roam this vast country of ours, has dwindled seriously and many are restricted to reserved forests in different states. In spite of state and government protection, many endangered animals are still poached by people for body parts that may fetch good money in black market.
In this context the present decision of the highest court not to allow tourists in core areas of tiger reserve becomes relevant. The decision is well intentioned. However, it is important to remember that to protect tigers in the forest, we are displacing humans that have coexisted with tigers since ages from their habitat. These people know the jungle and know how to avoid wild animals and how to protect themselves. If we displace these villagers, we need to find a vocation to support their lives and those of their families. In some states, displaced people have been given job in tiger reserve forests. Many people practice a whole gamut of different vocations around reserve forests. mANY of these people understand that their living depends on the tourists that come to reserve forest. I have seen hawkers around Ranthambhore forest advicing tourists not to litter the park. No amount of tiger preservation can succeed if local people are deprived of their livelihood. To feed their family, some of these people may fall prey to temptation of easy money by poachers. Tiger, or for that matter any wild life, can be protected only when local population accepts their presence and decides to coexist. Without local support, few governent appointed guards can do precious little to save wild life. Disappearance of tigers from Sariska or dehorning of Rhino in Kaziranga indicate just that. On the other hand in Ranthambore a temple exists in the fort in the middle of the forest. Tiger also move in the same area and people walk to and from the temple in early dawn or late dusk. I have seen these people not really very afraid. I think it is more important to modernize our tourist industry. We should make it mandatory to use electric vehicle instead of polluting fossil fuel driven jeeps and buses. Besides, the vehicles need upgradation and modernization to reduce the noise pollution they create. Tourist industry in tiger reserve is needed for livelihood of many common people. They also love their tiger in their own way.