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Importance of Tiger Conservation (29 July 2020)

Importance of Tiger Conservation (29 July 2020)

Why in News:

In good news for India, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on the 27th of July said the country has 70 percent of the world's tiger population, after releasing a report on tiger census ahead of International Tiger Day on July 29.

Context:

The awe-inspiring tiger is one of the most iconic animals on Earth. The tiger population across the world dropped sharply since the beginning of the 20th century but now for the first time in conservation history, their numbers are on the rise.

Background:

Global Tiger Day, also called the International Tiger Day, is an annual event marked to raise awareness for tiger conservation. It is observed every year on July 29. It was started in 2010 at the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit, with the aim to promote a global system for protecting the natural habitats of tigers and raise awareness among people on why tiger conservation must be supported.

Summary of the Debate

Main reasons of rising Tiger Population:

  • There was a political commitment at the central government level in the 1970s and that led to a law that enabled wildlife conservation across the country and subsequently that created National Parks and Sanctuaries with certain special measures which would not have been there in the normal forest area of the country.
  • In 2006, surveys suggested that the number of tigers was just 1,411 which was a cause of concern worldwide. But the Indian Government and many NGOs stepped forward and joined hands to ensure that the tiger population increases. And it did. In over a decade, India has seen a consistent rise in the number of tigers.
  • The government updated the acts regarding forest and wildlife. Any kind of illegal trading of animals has been banned.
  • Project Tiger has been successful in increasing the population of the tigers. Around fifty national parks and sanctuaries are involved in this project.
  • It was realized that the technical expertise alone is not good enough unless the local communities and the people living around are part to the whole conservation efforts, and for that livelihood of the people are to be addressed and that is how we come to a stage where we have been able to bring up a species which was on the brink of extinction to a fairly good number.
  • About 70 percent of the Tiger population of the world is there in India and we have about 50 tiger reserves in the country now and the communities living in many places have been voluntarily relocated that helped in further improving the ecosystem of the area and the entire species and the web of life in those Tiger reserves.
  • Panna Tiger Reserve is one of the reserves where the translocation of Tiger has been achieved successfully.

PROJECT TIGER

  • Project Tiger is a tiger conservation program launched in April 1973 by the Government of India during Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's tenure. Kailash Sankhala was the first director of Project Tiger.
  • As the Bengal Tiger is the national animal of India, the project aims at ensuring a viable population of Bengal tigers in their natural habitats, protecting them from extinction, and preserving areas of biological importance as a natural heritage.
  • Owing to the project, the number of tigers increased to 2,226 as per the census report released in 2015. State surveys have reported a significant increase in the tiger population which was estimated at around 3,000 during the 2018 count (as part of a four-yearly tiger census).
  • Project tiger was started in association with WWF and still gets its main funding from them.

Benefits of Tiger Population:

  • When you conserve the Tigers it means you are taking care of the whole ecosystem.
  • Tiger is one of the top predators India has and if the Tiger welfare is ensured a large number of other species and the balance of nature of that area is also ensured. So for that purpose the Tiger protection and conservation is very important.
  • It is not just Tiger alone it’s a whole lot of ecosystem services which got improved, whether it is water surface runoff the soil fertility, species and the other livelihood options which were available with the people and with the coming of the eco-tourism which is the responsible tourism the many of the people who were deprived of their traditional rights were compensated economically and they became part of the conservation efforts, that is how with about 3000 tigers in the India which is about 50 percent of the world population.
  • Taking Tiger as an umbrella species and its conservation have also ensured the conservation of the ungulates, small animals, pollinators, water, soil, etc.  
  • Most of the Tiger reserves happen to be watersheds of many of the rivers and the streams, so they are the important sources of water which help across the downstream communities across the country.
  • After the success of the Project Tiger, the demand for human help has increased. Starting from building national parks to handling it, every aspect of it generated employment.

Challenges:

  • In isolation, Tiger reserves may not succeed in the long run for conserve these species.
  • In developing corridors for the free movement of Tigers, there are issues dealing with the people and also with regard to development.
  • The fragments of habitation have been one of the major reasons increasing conflict between man and wild animals as well as a decrease in certain species or biodiversity.
  • The linear development such as railroads and road networks are one of the very serious issues in respect of creating a conservation ethos and conservation scenario and the protected environment of wildlife animals.
  • The original habitat of the Tiger in the country is very small, it is the buffer zone that has been added and protection which provided has really helped it, otherwise, the core zone of the area in the reserves are very small.
  • Although there are a large number of Tiger reserves but interconnectivity between the reserves is very poor.
  • According to the survey, the Tiger population has reasonably increased only in the North and some in the South, but there are many other areas and the Northeast has not increased.

Way Forwards:

  • There has to be corridors between the Tiger reserves and the population so that they can freely move and the gene exchange takes place.
  • Establishment of corridors and dealing with the people which has to be a part of the entire conservation program conservation alone and the production of these species alone cannot happen without the social upliftment of the communities and the people living in and around who are having a subsistence livelihood.
  • There are ongoing schemes of central governments and state governments which lead from every aspect of the human life and the community’s life and that can be used to benefit to these communities so that their dependence on the Tiger resource and the forest get reduced to a great extent.
  • Investment has to take place in a manner which is supplemental to both the aspect of livelihood as well as the conservation of the species.
  • The development and Tiger conservation can go hand in hand provided the development plans should be in the manner where these issues incorporate systematically.
  • Voluntary relocation of the communities or the villagers inside the Tiger reserves and along the corridors and ensure that social justice is done along with the conservation of the Tigers.
  • Government schemes will help the communities so they can be beamed away from the dependency on the forest completely.
  • Entire developmental administration has to be slightly reoriented especially when we are dealing with the Forest habitats or the biodiversity hotspots.
  • Tiger conservation program has now to be made more dynamic in terms of the futuristic problems and futuristic constraints that are likely to expect because of the climate change.
  • It is time to shift the emphasis from the Tiger reserve area to the networks of Tiger reserves which is from length and breadth of the country which is going to be very challenging because of the various factors and developmental issues.

Important points made by the Guests

Prof. C.K. Varshney, Environmentalist & Former Dean, School of Environment Sciences, JNU

  • It has entered in to Guinness world records that it is the first time the Tiger census has been carried out using such a large number of Camera traps and thousands of thousands of photographs have been analyzed and each Tiger can be identified by the characteristics strips that it has. So each Tiger can be labelled and each Tiger can be counted.
  • It is something like a very good leverage for creating an environment where this species which is still having lot of challenges like Tiger is in danger because of the illegal poaching that is taking place because large number of people world overtake it as a pride to really possess trophies of the Tiger for example from nail from tooth from the skin and all kinds of things and in fact every part of the Tiger has a market value. The grey market or the illegal market for this is very large and there is a global demand.
  • Human and Tiger conflict is becoming increasingly large because the Tiger practice has grown and habitat are shrinking, so they are really wandering and having parole in human habitation.
  • Climate change is one of the very dominant factors which is going to really matter both in terms of the animals as well as for the Tigers because the Northward movement and upward movement because of the climate change is very dominating factor.
  • We find that animals as well as plants are really shifting their range and the Tigers were never found to be present in Sikkim and in high altitude where the snow leopards are found, but there is camera evidence that Tiger is now sighted there. So, the Tiger conservation program has to be more dynamic.

Kalyan Verma, Wildlife Photographer & Filmmaker 

  • Because of eco-tourism, Tigers are also getting habituated to people, because before they were extremely shy but because of seeing vehicles and tourists, they are also getting a lot more habituated.
  • In some Tiger reserves, there are more Tigers than the National Park can handle and when the new Tigers come in to the park the old Tiger has to move out that usually move out to nearby village which becomes human-wildlife conflict. If these forests are connected these Tigers can move.
  • We need to acknowledge the work of the Indian forest department because they are the one who continues to manage to get the Tiger numbers where they are.

Ashok Pai, Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Uttrakhand

  • There are few challenges and issues to be tackled with because the situation is dynamic it is not that we have achieved a terrible level of population management, we have to keep on evolving different processes and methods by which the population remains viable and also the sustainability of the people.
  • Tiger conservation is not just a species or biodiversity conservation alone it has huge economic spin-off because the flow benefits of Tiger conservation is almost 300 to 3500 times the invested in the management of the Tiger.
  • Stock in the sense that the timber and the carbon stored and sequester that is also runs in to a lakh crore for this. So that is the kind of economic implications of the Tiger conservation.

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