Rewilding India

Rewilding India

Julian Mathews, Chairman, TOFTigers, on the theme for this year's TOFTigers Wildlife Tourism Awards

June 22 , 2016
03 Min Read

Nature is quite remarkable. Its ability to rebound against the ravages and plundering of mankind—surprisingly quickly and with very little help—never ceases to astound me and gives my often troubled heart continuing reason to believe that what we have lost, can, with vision, energy and enterprise be restored.

I have seen it happen on the borders of Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. Good friends bought 55 acres (now 110 acres) of farmland in 2007, large open fields bordering degraded territorial forest. They called it rather appro­priately, Singinawa, Nepalese for ‘Protectors of the Sacred forest’, and set out with reverential zeal to restore their barren land, planting na­tive trees and shrubs, setting aside land for meadow grasses and building a large waterhole for wildlife. They also built a few tasteful bed­rooms carefully planned around the sides of the property, to allow the core of the sanctuary to be reborn.

Bingo. Within two years they had their own private nature reserve. How fantastic is that? There was a resident leopard. Spotted deer grazed contentedly every night. The occasional sloth bear or even tiger spoor was noted and birds and their busy nest-making activities came back to this new Eden with wild abun­dance. Next, they worked with their neighbours, helping their schools, and with funding from TOFTigers, ran projects to make their villages plastic free and supportive of new medical fa­cilities. They encouraged local tribal art and had a tribal festival that brought alive ancient cultural dances that were slowly dying for want of an audience. It wasn’t just a natural para­dise—local people were a part too. Rewilding is the name given for its form today and its final stamp of approval has been the arrival of wild dogs or dhole on the property—the ultimate ac­colade of wildness.

So, if it can be done on 100 acres, why not 1,000? Why not 10,000 acres? What waste­land or denuded forest terrain wouldn’t yearn for the same tender loving care, and protection afforded to the new sacred landscapes of Singinawa Jungle Lodge?

What’s the limit to such vision? Could we stitch back India’s forests, in a way that has so successfully been done in other parts of the world, using in part the economic drivers of nature tourism to fund and sustain it? India already has many visionaries who are literally turning back the clock for nature, creating pri­vate sanctuaries and community owned forests around the country, from farmlands besides forests to unviable coffee plantations. Often they are sustained by wildlife lovers happy to spend their holidays enraptured in these newly restored natural havens.

Rewildling is the theme of the 4th TOFTigers Wildlife Tourism Awards, done in association with Outlook Traveller, with the best of the best announced at a Gala dinner in New Delhi in September. These Awards are aimed at high­lighting and rewarding those individuals, busi­nesses, service providers, naturalists, guides, community enterprises, parks and sanctuaries who are leading the way in the Indian subconti­nent in using nature tourism to enhance a range of conservation goals.

Each award winner, in their own way, will be pioneering new ways to support and inspire wildlife conservation, engage local communi­ties and help this restoration of wildlife habitat through their vision, drive and action.

Play your part—help us rewild India—and vote now for your favourites. Vote on

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