Is the tiger burning bright?

CONSERVATION

Is the tiger burning bright?

Tiger Trail: A pugmark at the Biligiri Ranganathaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary (BRT) area.

The country’s tiger conservation programme is flush with government funds, but the same has not been adequately utilised for the programme. The funds have instead been diverted towards “habitat improvement”,  a study by a group of international experts has found.

A new study by a group of tiger biologists (including Ullas Karanth from India), conservation scientists, policy experts, field practitioners from USA, Europe and South Asia and South East Asian Countries has revealed that despite India being on top in expenditure for conservation, not much effort is made in utilising the funds for staff improvement, law enforcement, law enforcement monitoring, informant network and trade monitoring.

Not all linked to tigers

The study also reveals that though the Project Tiger launched in 1972 helped establish a large number of reserves, the array of activities were complex and less directly related to tigers. Protection and management of many reserves therefore became inadequate and led to the incidents that occurred at Sariska and Panna reserves.

Though the study mentions the fund crunch for tiger conservation, the expert study points out that in the case of India, the spending has run into USD 135 per square kilometre when compared to other nations with a sizeable tiger population. However ‘habitat improvement’ gets more attention than other aspects in the country.

Whose domain? Tiger marking territory at Bandipur. Photo credit: VinayAs per the paper published in PLoS biology titled ‘Bringing the tiger back from the brink- The six percent solution,’ tiger protection across the world in 42 identified source sites ( an area capable to sustain 25 breeding tigress) require USD 82 million, which effectively works out to 930 dollars per sq km per year. The estimation varies between USD 130 per sq kms and USD 5,000 sq km per year for densely settled regions in Asia. However the annual expenditure for conservation is USD 47 million, which is borne by the respective governments of the countries and to some extent raised through NGOs and private donors. This creates a shortfall of USD 35 million annually for conservation.  The annual expenditure being USD 500 per sq kms, little more than one fourth of this (USD 135 per sq kms/year ) is spent by India for ‘habitat improvement.’

Other countries such as Indonesia, Russia, Thailand, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Laos, Malaysia and Cambodia, which have sizeable tiger population with good source sites spend USD 365 dollars per sq meter per year. Though the presence of the tiger is established in China and Korea, the study says that it is not sure whether there are any source sites left in China and Korea.

How many tigers remain

Across the world, only 3,500 animals live in the wild now occupying just seven percent of their historical range. Of these, only 1000 are likely to be breeding females.

Source sites

The study identifies 42 source sites on basis of sites which have the potential to maintain 25 breeding females embedded in larger landscape with a potential to contain 50 breeding females. Of these 42 sites, India tops the list with 18 source sites followed by Indonesia which has eight and Russian Far East which has six sites.

Malnad-Mysore tiger landscape

According to the study, the Malnad-Mysore tiger landscape in the state holds the key in conservation and the region extending from Dandeli to Nilgiris maintains about 220 adult tigers.

The study says that the region has a source site like Nagarhole, which has shown an increase in number by 400 percent since past thirty years.

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