Wildlife tourism is arguably the fastest growing sector in the travel industry, the largest service industry in the world, which, like any other industry, is governed by bottom lines, growth and quick returns. Governments, particularly in developing economies, are cashing in on a trend.
These countries are also home to some of the last remaining rainforests and endangered flora and fauna in the world, including India’s precious tiger reserves. Tourists are attracted by the proposition of combining visits to little-known, ‘mysterious’ destinations off the beaten track, which they perceive as socially and environmentally responsible. However many of these places are being fast degraded and are rapidly losing their sheen.
I read a very interesting article recently which asked some very relevant questions. Can we negotiate a path by availing the immense potential of tourism to educate, conserve and offer employment; yet avoid the minefield of misuse and abuse that afflicts many of our finest wildernesses?
In the process can we ensure that wild species and the people who live alongside them become primary beneficiaries of tourism? Can wildlife tourism physically enhance the quality and quantity of habitat available to wild species?
As the famous American naturalist Aldo Leopold said, "The problem with wildlife management is not how we handle the deer - the real problem is one of human management."
Can we have our cake and eat it too?
We can! Whatever anyone says about tourism, it must be recognized as one of the very few industries that can, if managed correctly, have an ecologically low footprint, help protect wildernesses… and offer good livelihoods to large numbers of locals.
Believe it or not, there are lodges working to attain this almost magical goal. Jungle lodges like Singinawa have been instrumental in various conservation initiatives and community projects, thus offering better quality of life to the communities living in the vicinity of these wildlife habitats and also contributing to conservation of local habitats.
Singinawa Jungle Lodge is a beautiful lodge nestled in the quieter area of Kanha National Park, one of the prettiest tiger reserves in Central India. With just 12 tastefully decorated cottages in 55 acres of grasslands, it is nestled near the Mukki Gate offering you the chance to experience the jungles of central India in complete comfort and style.
The owners of the lodge are totally committed to conservation initiatives and that led to the formation of Singinawa Conservation Foundation. This Foundation is involved in many aspects of local conservation, community and sustainability work.
The Foundation recognizes how important it is that local communities benefit from tourism and the Lodge encourages guests to visit local tribal villages to get a true insight into their lives. It provides health care, free of charge, for various villages around the buffer zone of Kanha. It has also partnered with the Johari Medical Research Foundation (JMRF) to hold free eye-checkup camps in the neighbouring villages.
Patients requiring operative procedures and care are sent to Mumbai to be treated under the special care of JMRF and are fully supported by the Singinawa Conservation Foundation during this period.
Additionally the lodge has adopted a school at Kohka Village and, as part of the Great Tiger Project’s initiatives, school children are taught art & crafts and spoken English. The Foundation very recently has also set up a low a cost technique for creating charcoal briquettes using cut Lantana.
The technique allows the fabrication of charcoal briquettes, used by villagers for cooking as well as to generate heat in the winter months. This helps combat an invasive weed that is preventing the natural growth of many native flora species that were once abundant in the region.
There are also many ecologically friendly projects that the Foundation is involved in. In 2015, they expanded their territory and 30,000 saplings were planted on the land. They have set up on the land a Museum of Life and Art which incorporates a Solar Power plant which provides local renewable power.
Singinawa is trying hard to remain true to its guiding philosophy of being “Protectors of the Sacred Forests” and encourages and enables visitors to participate in its work. As a visitor to Kanha, there are a range of interesting activities that you could participate in through The Singinawa Conservation Foundation, which help to reduce and offset the ever-increasing human impact on India’s conservation areas.
Images courtesy of Singinawa Jungle Lodge
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Posted by: Harsha Ogale
Posted on: 29th December 2016
Read more: Posts about Asia