Tigers are among the most endangered animals in the world. The day is not far when we will just see them in the photographs. Although efforts are being made to stop their extinction, not much success has been achieved. Tigers, which a century ago were believed to number 1 lakh all over the world is today reduced to about 3,890, according to the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum. India home to about 60% of tigers in the world. It holds a significant place in terms of tiger conservation.
Having the largest population means greater are the responsibilities and challenges which comes with the territory. India started well with the project tiger program in 1973 with an initial list of 9 Tiger Reserves. This project went on to cover 28 Tiger Reserves across the country, incorporating an area of 77,761 sq. km. In 2006, it was replaced by the National Tiger Conservation Authority. As of now, India has 50 tiger reserves that cover 2.12% of the country’s total geographical area. India’s efforts paid well and tiger population increased to 1,706 in 2011 from 1,411 in 2006 and then to 2,226 in 2014 from 1,706 in 2011. But currently, India seems to fail in its objective of saving tigers. According to wildlife protection society of India, last year recorded a total of 91 tiger deaths of which 27 cases of poaching have come to the fore. On an average 12 tigers died every month in the first 6 months of last year, this data suggests that India could lose more of its tigers this year than it did in 2016 and 2017. In 2016 India lost 132 tigers of which 50 cases of poaching and seizures came to light. Madhya Pradesh, also known as the tiger state of India has alone lost 17 tigers so far. This is alarming to see the way India is losing its tigers. To counter the ongoing crisis Indian government has taken some initiatives over the years for the protection of tigers, like formation of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau to effectively control illegal trade, signing of a protocol with Bangladesh for conservation of Royal Bengal Tigers of the Sunderbans, deploying of Special Tiger Protection Forces for 13 tiger reserves, Increasing of cost estimate of Project Tiger to Rs1216.86 crore from 650 crore, Launching of national repository camera trap photo IDs of individual tigers.
Although the government took initiatives for the protection of tigers, recent statistics tell a different story as such all these initiatives have come to naught. Recent deaths of tigers raise questions over the initiatives and projects started by the government for protecting tigers. There are many factors which cause tiger deaths like Poaching, habitat loss, inadequate prey. Poaching is increasing because there is a surge in demands of tiger’s body parts and skin in China, and Taiwan. Also, the country’s increasing population is putting a huge pressure on tiger’s habitat because of that human-tiger conflicts are becoming very common. Recently a tiger which killed 4 people in Maharashtra was found electrocuted because it strayed against an electric fence. Conflicts like these are very common these days because tigers come out of the reserves in search of food. Habitat loss is not only because of the population but development projects also. In Madhya Pradesh, the Ken-Betwa river interlinking irrigation project will submerge approximately 5,000 hectares of Panna tiger reserve.
Starting projects alone is not enough to protect tiger, there is a need to have a continuous vigil and to take strict action in reserves to stop poaching. The government should find alternatives for development projects so that they don’t cross through reserves. Awareness should be spread among people to stop them from killing tigers and they should be rehabilitated to a safe place to stop conflicts with tigers.