How to Ensure an Ethical Tiger Safari?
A tiger safari falls in the bucket list of most nature lovers around the world as it offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see this majestic creature at close quarters.
Having said that, long since the camera have replaced the gun as an integral safari tool, there are few destinations on earth which appear less on the travel radar than an exploration of the Tiger Reserves of India.
While viewing wild animals in their natural habitat is an awe-inspiring experience and was an accepted norm around ten years ago, the fact remains that we are hunting them even more so today.
Whether this is with our iphones or hounding them by the safari vehicles, the question to be asked is that if what we are doing is ethical?
Sad to say that such wildlife encounters are thriving even as these animals endeavour to sleep or spend time peacefully with their offspring.
According to studies, there are thousands of animals who are suffering at the hands of irresponsible tourism and none so much as the magnificent Royal Bengal Tiger, a species we are most likely to lose in our lifetime.
It therefore becomes all the more important to support strong campaigns for responsible tiger tourism, especially in India, which has the largest numbers of tigers left in the wild.
Here are some suggestions for embarking on ethical tiger safaris and how you can still enjoy the experience without leaving a footprint. As a tourist there much you can do by supporting organizations that are working tirelessly to promote responsible wildlife tourism.
Support lobbying charities
Charities which work on the ground level to conserve the habitat of the tiger and prevent poaching such as WWF etc must be supported as it leads to a strong campaign for responsible tiger safaris in India.
Moreover, they even rate the measure of footprints left in the hotels and resorts which have come up near the tiger reserves.
Additionally, on your part, you can share the videos or photos of tigers on social media which can greatly help in the vital research process.
Shun elephant riding trips
There is no better tempting and exciting experience to see wildlife in India than from the back of an elephant, but once you come to know the hardships these gentle giants face in getting you a glimpse of the tiger, you may think again.
There are innumerable problems associated with using an elephant for a tiger safari. First of all, to ride on a captured elephant is a big threat to the remaining population of Asian elephants as it requires separating a baby from its mother
Secondly, these animals are largely mistreated, shackled, and trained with bullhooks to crush their spirit and obey the commands of the mahout religiously.
Lastly, on an elephant safari, you are left to the whims and fancy of the mahout who just spends the majority of the time hitting and bellowing commands to the poor beast in an effort to get a good tip from the guests.
So, while elephant safaris for tiger tracking do generate a sizable income for the park authorities to support the conservation of the animal, on the whole, this activity is considered highly unethical.
If a safari offers the option of riding an elephant, do not support it. A tiger safari is only considered ethical and sustainable if conducted in proper safari vehicles. Anything else is bad not only for the wildlife but for the habitat as well.
If a tiger safari in any National Park in India is on your itinerary, choose an organization that provides quality service conforming to respect required for the environment. At the same time avoid wasting natural resources like water and dispose of the waste properly.
Do not litter in the national park and last but not the least, do not disturb the flora and fauna of the protected areas. Research the area well and understand their environmental and economic challenges. How the organization benefits the tiger, the local people and finally the environment.
Things to avoid on a tiger safari
From common errors to ethical mistakes here are some things to keep in mind before going on a tiger safari:
Never get out of the safari vehicle
Remember, when on a tiger safari you are dealing with an animal who is wild and dangerous. It is not worth getting attacked if you are looking for that extra good shot by leaning too far out or getting out of your vehicle. Ethical tiger safaris are all about appreciating the wildlife from afar, so at no point should you get out of the vehicle and disturb the animal’s peace.
Never drive offroad
It may at times seem tempting to drive off the designated route in order to get a better view or the perfect photo you have been dreaming of. This only destroys the fragile habitat by trampling on plants and trees and forces the animals to readapt to human behavior.
Try river safaris
While all parks do not have such a facility, a river safari is a perfect way to watch wildlife as it creates a natural safe distance between the animals and the visitors. Tigers, especially during the hot season, are often found near water bodies to drink and cool off. This provides a better opportunity of seeing and photographing them.
Research visitor numbers
Check how many persons and vehicles are allowed into the park each day at any given time. Look into whether they follow the park rules strictly and do not drive to close to the animal to getting a better view.
Importance of ethical safaris
For a wildlife lover, it is believed that every time on a tiger safari is good for the animal. In reality, we are all human and fail to realize that at times we are causing them harm, while on a wildlife holiday. This is the reason that ethical safaris are so important as they give you the chance to see animals guilt free.
A zoo or a captive center may offer guaranteed close encounters, but this just gives a distorted view of the life of the animal. Ethical safaris, on the other hand, are just the opposite and uncover the truth. Not only that, they are fun and educational, which is much more than an avid nature lover would want.
Though the ethics of a tiger safari is not a clear cut matter, it is in the best interest of the animal to spend its life to the full in its natural habitat, rather than being unduly stressed by the selfie crazy tourist. After all, any wildlife experience is best enjoyed when you see animals on their own terms and not ours.