- The Tiger is listed as Endangered under IUCN red list.
- In 1998, the global Tiger population was estimated at 5,000 to 7,000 Tigers. A comparison of these population estimates of the 1990s to similar current ones suggests a decline of about 50% i.e. approximately 3,500 in 2014.
- As per the assessment of the Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey (2014), the number of tigers in India is estimated at 2,226 as compared to the 2010 estimate of 1,706.
- The 2018 All India Tiger Estimation is currently underway and is said to be theworld’s largest wildlife survey in terms of “coverage, intensity of sampling and quantum of camera trapping.
Threats to Tigers
- The Ministry of Environment recently said that 45% of the tiger deaths between 2012 and 2017 could be attributed to unnatural reasons.
- Of the 45%, 22% of the deaths were due to poaching, 15% due to seizures of body parts and the remaining could be attributed to road and railway accidents.
- Over the past few years, instances of tigers travelling hundreds of kilometres looking for territory have come to the fore.
- In 2017, 115 tigers died and in 2016, the number of deaths was 122.
Tiger conservation efforts
- The government started Project Tiger program to protect the animal, and in 1973 and created reserves throughout India with rangers to patrol them.
- Since then, the big cat has seen a steady revival.
- Some reports suggest that the final findings of the ongoing national census, to be released in January 2019, could put the population at more than3,000 across 50 reserves.
- The National Tiger Conservation Authority was created in 2005, which oversees nation-wide conservation efforts now.
- A “Tiger Summit” was held in St Petersburg, Russia in 2010, where the 13 Tiger Range Countries adopted a Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP 2010).
- The group also decided to annually mark July 29 as Global Tiger Day.
- The goal is to effectively double the number of wild Tigers by 2022 through actions to:
- Effectively preserve, manage, enhance and protect Tiger habitats.
- Eradicate poaching, smuggling and illegal trade of Tigers, their parts and derivatives.
- Cooperate in trans-boundary landscape management and in combating illegal trade.
- Engage with indigenous and local communities.
- Increase the effectiveness of Tiger and habitat management.
- Restore Tigers to their former range.
Success stories of Tiger conservation in India
- India’s track record with tiger populations has been encouraging.
- Numbers have steadily risen in census reports since 2006 with the 2014 survey finding an estimated2,226 wild tigers across the country.
- A few months ago, the first successful inter-state translocation of a pair of tigers was carried out from tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh to Satkosia in Odisha.
Challenges in tiger conservation
- Poaching for illegal trade in high-value Tiger products including skins, bones, meat and tonics is a primary threat to Tigers.
- The conviction rate in poaching cases is less than 1% and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau is not empowered enough.
- Reserves are often short staffed and guards are not trained sufficiently or given proper equipment to fight poachers.
- Many times, poachers aren’t outsiders but villagers living in tribal communities within the tiger reserves and national parks.
- Conversion of forest land to agriculture and silviculture, commercial logging, and human settlement are the main drivers of Tiger habitat loss.
- Tiger attacks on livestock and people can lead to intolerance of Tigers by neighbouring communities and presents an ongoing challenge to managers to build local support for Tiger conservation and can lead to high rates of retaliatory killing of Tigers.
- Protests against relocation to make way for proposed tiger corridors because of inadequate compensation.
- Another major threat to the tiger in India is habitat fragmentation and destruction.
- India has been pushing countless infrastructure projects, some of which, environmentalists say, disturb the ecological balance. For example, theKen-Betwa river-linking
- Similarly, there are plans and proposals for highways, canals and railway tracks through vital tiger corridors and forests in other parts of the country.
- Tiger tourism pumps some money into local communities and stirs interest in conservation, but despite good intentions it also encroaches on wildlife habitats.
- A lot more needs to be done on the conservation front.
- The tiger is a collective responsibility of all stakeholders and it cannot be left to the forest staff alone.
- There is a need for surveillance and maintenance of tiger corridors.
- There is a need for capacity building of the forest staff.
- We need to reinvent tiger tourism in a way that leaves a minimal footprint.
- Experts should figure out how to balance commerce and conservation in a way that ensures India’s tiger population will continue to grow.
- Tigers might still be recovered if government commitment to Tigers, staff capacity for law enforcement and legal frameworks for Tiger protection can be established.
- India being home to 70% of the tiger population in the world can be a global leader in tiger conservation.
Section : Environment & Ecology