International Tiger Day: What lies ahead for the big cat in the wild, wild world

Global Tiger Day also is known as International Tiger Day, is an annual celebration to raise awareness for tiger conservation, held annually on July 29. It was created in 2010 at the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit. The goal of the day is to promote a global system for protecting the natural habitats of tigers and raise public awareness and support for tiger conservation issues.

In India, the numbers of tigers are increasing constantly. In 2006, there were 1,411 tigers, which increased to 1,706 in 2010 and 2,226 in 2014. Around 97 percent of the world tiger population perished in the last 100 years and according to the latest statistics, only 3,890 tigers are left in the world, out of which 2,226 are in India.

The concentrated efforts of independent activists, government policies, and amendments to the Wild Life Protection Act and raising awareness have helped push the number of the wild cats to 2,226 in 2014 when the last tiger census was held.

India has one of the lowest per capita forest areas in the world. Forests as carbon sinks are deemed to be a major mean of controlling climate change. Depletion of forests is responsible for the reduction of tiger habitats.

Reduced food base: As forestlands fall to development projects, habitable lands for animals that make for the tiger’s food base are also reduced.

Poaching: Another issue that has hindered tiger conservation in India and globally is poaching, which will persist as long as there is an illegal market for tiger body parts.

Climate change: Rising sea level as a result of climate change is on the verge of wiping out Sundarbans, one of the last remaining habitats of the Bengal tigers.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has launched the M-STrIPES (Monitoring System for Tigers – Intensive Protection and Ecological Status), a mobile monitoring system for forest guards.

At the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit in 2010, leaders of 13 tiger range countries resolved to do more for the tiger and embarked on efforts to double its number in the wild, with a popular slogan ‘T X 2’.  The Global Tiger Initiative (GTI) program of the World Bank, using its presence and convening ability, brought global partners together to strengthen the tiger agenda.

Over the years, the initiative has institutionalized itself as a separate entity in the form of the Global Tiger Initiative Council (GTIC), with its two arms – the Global Tiger Forum and the Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Program.

The Project Tiger, launched way back in 1973, has grown to more than 50 reserves amounting to almost 2.2% of the country’s geographical area.

Additionally, improving patrolling and doing it specifically in areas vulnerable to poaching can bring the crime rate down.

There are several infrastructure projects that will cut through tiger corridors and habitats. The future of the big cat is uncertain if we continue to violate their habitat. Unless tigers have inviolate habitats where they can breed and flourish and there are corridors linking these breeding populations, we are isolating tigers in very small reserves which is fatal in the long run.

Highways and railway lines are being expanded in the corridor connecting Kanha and Pench tiger reserves.

A railway line is being constructed through Melghat tiger reserve.

Ken-Betwa river linking project will submerge over 100 square kilometers of the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.)

While the number is something to be proud of, experts believe issues such as poaching, receding forest areas and development projects infringing on tiger habitat need to be tackled.

 

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