New report highlights nature tourism’s role in India’s Tiger conservation efforts, even though international visits are down

02 November 2017

A new study by one of India’s leading tiger ecologists, funded by TOFTigers published last month, highlights the valuable role wildlife tourism is playing in securing the long term future of the tiger and its forest habitats in the wild. However, the report also highlights that international tourism has dropped by almost 50% in the last five years in central India, despite India being home to some of the world’s most beloved cats, so immortalized in Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’.

The report focuses on four Tiger Reserves in Madhya Pradesh, finding that entry fees alone from visitors contribute over £2.3 million per annum, over half the total funds now provided by central and state governments for their annual protection. Furthermore, villages with tourism infrastructure have revenues from small businesses eight times higher than those without and also benefit from higher levels of employment, greatly improved health and better educational levels. Critically these communities are now much less dependent on the forest for wood and livelihoods, and wildlife tourism has created a ‘tiger friendly’ perception amongst such communities – a positive win-win for tiger conservation efforts.

Dr. Raghu Chundawat, the eminent tiger scientist who led the research team, points out that while successful, most Tiger Reserves in India are small and the tiger populations protected within their boundaries are not viable. “Exclusionary models of conservation are no longer feasible over a larger landscape,” he says. He believes that to build on the success of the Protected Areas and take tiger conservation beyond their boundaries, we need to look at new, parallel and complementary models for saving and restoring forests. “Our findings show that wildlife tourism can provide one way of doing this; with support and improved sustainable practices, tourism could provide a paradigm to spread benefit to tigers and people over a much broader area.”

If nature tourism is seen as a conservation tool rather than a threat, it has the potential to bring sustainable and significant economic development to many remote areas.” Dr Chundawat adds: “many countries around the world have shown this and benefitted from increased biodiversity conservation. But it requires sympathetic government policies that promote and encourage sustainable wildlife tourism over a larger landscape.

Julian Matthews, founder of the nature stewardship charity, TOFTigers, which funded the report, points out “the study has found that many of the criticisms levelled at the tourism community are not correct here when examined closely. For instance 80% of jobs are held by locals, 45% of all the direct revenue goes to the local economy and the researchers found zero evidence of forest cover loss. There are certainly still key issues, including poor planning, lighting, noise and waste disposal, that need to be improved to enjoy the full potential of this sector to support tiger protection and forest conservation. However, with the average lodge occupancy at only around 31%, we need to see a revival of interest by the international travel community in India’s incredibly rich natural heritage and for them to follow our lead in responsible travel by choosing the PUG mark when they’re selecting places to stay”.

So ‘If it pays for local people to keep forests and wildlife - it will stay’ is an oft quoted mantra which the founder of Project Tiger Indira Gandhi herself highlighted in 1973.

For a copy of the report or more information contact:
Laura Downer 07803 724 637 or

Further Information
The Value of Wildlife Tourism for Conservation & Communities, A study around four Tiger Reserves in Madhya Pradesh, led by Dr. Raghunandan Singh Chundawat, was published in October 2017. The study covers Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Panna and Pench Tiger Reserves in Madhya Pradesh.

Dr. Raghu Chundawat
One of India’s leading wildlife academics. Dr. R. S. Chundawat has held the post of Regional Science and Conservation Director for the International Snow Leopard Trust, was for ten years a member of the teaching faculty of India’s premier research and training institute, the Wildlife Institute of India and is very closely involved with tiger conservation. He recently completed a ten-year study to determine the ecological requirement for tigers in a Dry Tropical Forest in Panna National Park in India.

Widely recognised by the international conservation community, Raghu is the recipient of several awards including Esso’s ‘Honour for Tiger Conservation’ in 2001; the ‘Carl Zeiss Wildlife Conservation Award’ 2002 for excellence and the ‘Tiger Gold’ award in 2003 for outstanding scientific work with wild tigers. In 2003 BBC/Animal Planet produced an award-winning wildlife documentary film on his work with the Tigers in Panna − “Tigers of the Emerald Forest”. Today he resides on the borders of Panna Tiger Reserve.

TOFTigers is a pioneering campaign and leader in advocating sustainable, well planned wildlife tourism in South Asia as a critical wildlife conservation tool. Its mission is to make nature visits a force for good – protecting biodiversity, restoring habitats, supporting rural livelihoods and raising awareness of the vital role played by natural services from clean air, water security and carbon sequestration to flood prevention, food, medicines and wellbeing. TOFTigers has a twelve year track record and global membership of more than 200 companies including over 70 PUG eco-rated places to stay in wilderness locations in India and Nepal. The PUG mark, recognised by the UN-backed Global Sustainable Tourism Council, is South Asia’s first eco certification scheme covering accommodation in wilderness destinations. TOFTigers is the enterprise arm of the UK charity Nature Stewardship Alliance (No. 1172519).

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