Archi Rastogi PhD Oral Defense title: Understanding the social dimensions of tiger conservation in India
Tiger conservation represents many of the challenges facing biodiversity conservation internationally. It requires the protection of a potentially-dangerous predator in forested ecosystems, which are also utilized by some of the poorest human populations for survival and livelihoods. In such contexts, establishing exclusive protected areas for tiger conservation can antagonize local stakeholders, although their support is crucial to managing protected areas. This thesis presents exploratory research into the social dimensions of tiger conservation in India, and ultimately informs policy and management of biodiversity conservation in a variety of contexts.
Conservation policy and management is known to be affected by the viewpoints of professionals, often realized through advocacy coalitions. A quantitative study combining the Q-Method with a traditional survey of conservation professionals in India revealed five dominant viewpoints of tiger conservation: 1) community-centered; 2) tiger-centered; 3) science and tourism-led; 4) instrumental approach; and 5) moral-centred. The results offer insight on areas where conservation professionals agree, and may help to frame more effective tiger conservation policy discourse in India.
Focussing on Corbett Tiger Reserve, India, a qualitative study explores the socio-political process through which local stakeholders articulate their concerns regarding tiger conservation, in order to elicit desired reactions from park management. The results provide insight to the local-level socio-political processes which make tiger conservation outcomes susceptible to local pressures.
A quantitative assessment of the social capital that exists within three villages located around Corbett Tiger Reserve offers important insights on the ways in which social capital is affected by tiger conservation, and the extent to which this can affect the potential for collective action for, or against, tiger conservation objectives.
A qualitative study into the social and ecological impacts associated with intensive wildlife tourism on a village bordering Corbett Tiger Reserve sheds light on the linkages between the ecological, socio-economic and institutional aspects affecting tiger conservation objectives. Rapid and unplanned tourism expansion has created financial disparity among the village residents, affecting their solidarity and creating perverse challenges for village institutions seeking to reduce conflict, highlighting the local-level complexity of tiger conservation.
This research considers the politics, policy and practice of tiger conservation in India. The results will be useful in both administering short-term solutions within the existing policy framework, and in devising long-term trajectories for tiger conservation policy and management in India. The results may also assist policy makers to frame more appropriate conservation policies, by better projecting the potential socio-political implications of tiger conservation.