Saturday, 15 September 2012

Last night’s Winners provide inspiration for the future of the Indian Wildlife Tourism industry

 TOFTigers, India’s leading advocate for responsible wildlife tourism held its 2nd Wildlife Tourism Awards last night at the Ambassador hotel in New Delhi.

“What we have always said is that India does have many inspiration people and businesses involved in the nature tourism sector, changing lives, saving forest and wildlife and supporting people, often overlooked in the heated debate of the present tourism ban,” says the TOFT awards founder, Julian Matthews. “If all nature tourism was like this, India’s wildlife tourism would not be in its present impasse.”

Winners include superb naturalists, NGO’s funded by tourism, now treating 90,000 patients on the borders of a tiger reserve, park guides that spend their spare time training and educating, private sanctuaries that have restored fabulous waterfalls and stitched back two parks on its boundaries, beautiful tiger reserves with blooming tiger populations and lodges that now have resident wildlife and even tigers in their restored landscapes.

This is the future of nature tourism.

It is already here and we all need to ensure such inspirational examples are replicated across India in the future.

Full details below.

Contact Julian Matthews on 09717528977 or admin@toftindia.org for further details or photos

LODGE NATURALIST OF THE YEAR 2012
Winner:   Rajesh Bhatt - Jim's Jungle Lodge- Corbett, Uttarakhand
At 40 Rajesh Bhatt is an extraordinary guide and conservationist who is almost entirely self-taught and is presently taking a Masters course in environment and ecology from Manipal University.  He has great botanical knowledge, is a good birder and his passion for conservation sees him teaching and training forest guards and panchayat heads. He runs ecotourism courses across India. He set up his own NGO that help train fellow guides and school kids called ‘Rainbow’. 
Contact:  rajeshbhatt0@rediffmail.com

WILDLIFE PROMOTION COMPANY OF THE 2012
Winner:    &Beyond India   
& Beyond is run by naturalists and experts who had their roots in wildlife and guiding with a real sensitivity to Eco Tourism.  They have had the benefit of a large organisation to promote them, but have used this to help put India on the map as a wildlife destination, across the globe.

Media contact:   reinee.ghosh@andbeyondindia.com   website www.andbeyondindia.com  


WILDLIFE TOURISM COMMUNITY INITIATIVE OF THE YEAR 2012  

Winner:     Prakratik Society- Ranthambore
The Prakratik Society was founded by Goverdhan Singh Rathore . For the past 20 years the society has been working with local communities living around the Ranthambhore National Park providing health care with two hospitals serving over 90,000 patients a year, a top school with 250 pupils  dairy development and alternate energy all aimed to encourage sustainable co-existence of people with the wilderness environment on their doorstep. All of it supported and often funded by tourism. 


WILDLIFE AND TOURISM INITIATIVE OF THE YEAR 2012
Winner:  Wildernest  - Goa
Wildernest have created a large 450 acre private sanctuary, a vital Tiger corridor between Mahdei Wildlife in Goa and the Bhimgad Wildlife sanctuary in Karnataka, and now they are trying to get their Swapnagandha Valley designated as part of these Tiger Reserves. Originally saved from mining interests, these areas have become tiger corridors and Wildernest presence has helped stitch back this area and curbed poaching threat over a long period of time.



VISITOR FRIENDLY WILDLIFE DESTINATION OF THE YEAR 2012  
Winner:   Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve - Rajasthan
Ranthambhore is now an excellent wildlife experience, and has a blooming tiger population.    Visitor  numbers are close to 150,000 but the tourism is managed by opening up more areas with fewer vehicles, greater sensitivity, better cooperation between tourism, guides and park management and good use of NGO’s to support park management and communities. Thanks to converting 10 cattle herders to guides, a whole new part of the park has seen a new generation of tigers arrive after 25 years.



THE BILLY ARJAN SINGH MEMORIAL AWARD FOR BEST WILDLIFE GUIDE OF THE YEAR 2012

Joint Winner:      Yadvendra Singh Rajawat  -  Ranthambhore  
Yadvendra has worked in Ranthambhore for 20 years and been the President of the Guide Association for ten of these years. He is dedicated to Ranthambhore, and a preferred guide to a number of well-known operators.  He is a regular volunteer on Census operations and works closely with the management team to root out bad practices.  He runs many training programmes for new guides and takes part in anti-poaching patrols and fire service when necessary.

Contact:  yadtiger@gmail.com

Joint Winner:  Vipal Jain - Ranthambhore
Vipal has worked in park since 1993 and has been involved with a number of travel companies and their NGO’s that run projects in and around the area the Tiger Awareness charity.

THE JOHN WAKEFIELD MEMORIAL AWARD FOR MOST INSPIRATIONAL ECO LODGE OF THE YEAR 2012
Joint Winner: Mahua Kothi - Bandhavgarh  
Run by &Beyond (Tajsafaris) since 2006, it’s 26 acres have a small and aesthetically well placed building footprint that borders an important corridor between the Tala and the Khitauli range of the park, and allows the remainder free range for wildlife. It is run by an Ex WII wildlife biologist Neel Gogate and his team.  The lodge involves the local community in its work, provided world class training to all staff, and also supports many projects including helping reintroduce the wild Gaur back into Bandhavgarh.


Joint Winner: Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge Tadoba      
Started in 1996 this lodge is an really good example of how tourism can transform life, turning barren land and dried up stream beds back to life to create a haven for wildlife. It’s based on 30 acres of land, of which the building footprint is kept to a small area with a further 9 restored to wildlife. Its effect has been the transformation of the park area too, with decreasing in poaching, restoration of rivers and trees and bountiful wildlife has returned and new and stable livelihoods for bordering communities.

Contact:   info@tigertrails.in   website www.tigertrails.in