TOFTigers, a leading NGO in the wildlife and nature tourism sector issued a call for the nature tourism industry to extend its vital role in protecting India’s natural heritage and re-wilding denuded landscapes, in the wake of a global study revealing that humans have destroyed.
This was announced during the TOFTigers Awards at the British High Commissioner’s residence recently in the national Capital, to recognize the very best companies, parks and individuals including tour operators, eco lodges, naturalists and wildlife guides using nature tourism as a wildlife restoration, educational and protection tool.
India is one of the world’s most biologically diverse countries. Its forests and ecosystems provide vital natural services from clean air and water to flood prevention and soil fertility. Its high economic returns from recreation and tourism are one of the government’s key growth industries.
Yet the power of well-planned sustainable nature tourism remains badly understood and planned for, by Government and industry and is viewed with suspicion by some of the conservation sectors. A WWF and Cambridge University study recently concluded that for every 1 rupee invested in conservation today, 67 rupees is being returned economically – an astounding return on ‘conservation investment’.
“TOFTigers’ vision is to catalyse a new movement of support for nature conservation, local rural communities and re-wilding through the power of well-run nature tourism – particularly relevant as next year is the United Nations’ Year of Sustainable Tourism,” says Julian Matthews, Founder Chairman of nature tourism action charity, TOFTigers. The event saw active participation of members from the nature travel industry, tourism officials, conservationists and forest management.
It encourages the well planned and wise use of nature tourism to help protect wildlife, particularly tigers, their forest habitats as well as helping re-wild forests and landscapes.
It has pioneered a PUG eco-rating kite mark for accommodation providers in and around wilderness areas, that places environmental sustainability, local staff and local communities at the heart of business operations. It promotes good practice through biennial Wildlife Tourism Awards, a free online Good Wildlife Travel Guide to India & Nepal, nature guide training and a campaign aimed at the travel trade and travellers. It also encourages supports a network of Village Wildlife Guardians to help combat the illegal wildlife trade and prevent poaching in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.