Tourism induced stress is affecting reproductive health of tigers in India

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Published: July 17, 2019 2:40:58 AM

Not only is tourism directly detrimental for the physiological well-being of tigers, it also increases the risk of animal-human conflict and poaching, both of which, along with reduced core forest cover, endanger tiger populations nationwide.

Tourism, reproductive health, tiger, India, tigers in india, tiger populationFurther, a distinct correlation was found between stress levels in the feline population and the number of vehicles entering the reserves.

A study by Hyderabad’s Centre for Cell and Molecular Biology found that tourism had negative effects on the reproductive health of tigers in Bandhavgarh, Kanha and Sariska reserves. Researchers studying the impact of anthropogenic disturbances on stress levels in the felines, calculated from the concentration of female gluccocorticoid metabolite (fGCM) in fecal matter, over a year found that these were significantly higher during peak tourist season, which lasts for about eight to nine months, than in the off-season. Further, a distinct correlation was found between stress levels in the feline population and the number of vehicles entering the reserves.

Given that any physiological stress adversely affects the reproductive health and capacity of big cats—stress-induced failure of effective reproduction among tigers has previously been recorded in relocated populations—the present, unsustainable wildlife tourism industry does not bode well for the species already classified as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Not only is tourism directly detrimental for the physiological well-being of tigers, it also increases the risk of animal-human conflict and poaching, both of which, along with reduced core forest cover, endanger tiger populations nationwide. As of 2014, the tiger population in India was estimated to be 2,226, and a census is underway to arrive at a more current number. In the meanwhile, it is clear that state efforts must be directed towards ensuring not only that the natural habitats of tigers are expanded but also that they remain as anthropogenically untouched as possible to encourage a sustainable growth in the species’ numbers.

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