India's Supreme Court banned tourism in tiger reserves across the country Tuesday in a ruling meant to protect the endangered big cats.
"(Until) final directions of the court, core areas in tiger reserves will not be used for tourism activities," the court said in the order, according to CNN.
The decision may disrupt the travel plans of many tourists who already booked stays at the hundreds of hotels meant for tiger watching built deep in the forest, reported the Associated Press. The Supreme Court also put stiff penalties in place for Indian states that have not created buffer zones around tiger habitats. Six states were fined for failing to declare buffer zones around their tiger reserve forests and were given three weeks to follow up on the court's orders.
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India is home to more than half of the world's 3,200 tigers, with most living in reserves put into place since the 1970s, according to the Press Association. The Supreme Court said the tiger tourism ban was temporary, pending its final decision on a case filed by a wildlife activist demanding commercial activity in the forests were the tigers live be stopped.
CNN reported that the activist said ecotourism was hurting the habitat and breeding grounds of the endangered species. Ecotourism is supposed to show travelers nature with minimum environmental impact. The court is looking into whether or not tiger tourism in India's reserves is in fact low impact.