The project Tiger Watch was started in the late 1970s by the father of the current owner of the Khem Villas, Mr. Rathore. He devoted his life to establishing the National Park, protecting the tigers and helping and educating the villagers. Without their cooperation, the project would be doomed: cutting down trees for firewood and poaching are the real threats for both the park and the already dangerously low population of tigers. Alternatives like using biomass for cooking and job opportunities in the booming tourism industry should offer a different perspective to the mostly illiterate farmers (literacy of women is a mind-boggling 7%) in one of the poorest areas of India.
But the whole project is not trouble free… The National Park authorities and the government are not supportive to those private initiatives extra efforts. Mismanagement of park officials is rather rewarded than punished. The Sariska Tiger Reserve is an appalling but revealing example. In the early 2000s, several NGO repeatedly rang the alarm bells, informing the Indian authorities and the international press that tigers were being about to become extinct. The National Park Authorities claimed that nothing was wrong, until literally all tigers were killed by poachers! The head of the Tiger Reserve at that time, who simply lost all tigers, was promoted and sent to Ranthambhore National Parks, where tigers still had survived!
His first action was to have seven tigers transferred back to Sariska Tiger Reserve, despite the explicit warnings of scientists and conservationists. As predicted, this project is failing again: construction is undertaken in the park, which disturbs the animals; the tigers are not mating and last but not least, already one tiger has been poisoned and another one disappeared. Such a “success story” needs to be rewarded, right? The very person responsible was promoted again. At the time of writing, he was head of all National Parks in Rajasthan… Such doings certainly do not encourage park rangers to excel.
Another issue is the ongoing construction of more and more hotels, although the access to the park is limited. This leads to all kind of fishy deals and a lot of stress for hotel owners and their costumers to get tickets.
This is not the first time we have been so immediately confronted with the problem of poaching. In Uganda, the poaching of the few rhinos left is heart breaking. In India, a national outcry after numbers released claimed that only 56 tigers were left in India led to increased effort, but the poachers are well connected. National Geographic ran a very detailed article on this issue.