Vanishing tiger


According to the information disclosed in the Rajya Sabha, along with tigers, tiger conservation efforts are also endangered in the country. The government admitted that the situation is quite bad in 16 of the country’s 37 tiger reserves. Only 12 of them are in good condition. Four years ago it was reported that there was no tiger left in the Sariska reserve. Project Tiger, launched in 1973, seemed to be a success in the first few years when the tiger population increased from 1,220 to 3,500. But the number has dwindled to 1,411 now and if the trend continues the majestic animals will become extinct, like the cheetahs did five decades ago. Obviously whatever has been done by the government and others has not been enough. The main responsibility rests with the government because others cannot do much in the matter except creating awareness about the need to intensify the conservation efforts and support them.

The setting up of the Tiger Protection Force and increased spending on the conservation programme have not shown the desired results. The laws can still be made more stringent. But the laws are not the problem but their implementation is. The nexus between poachers and forest officials still thrives and as long as this is not broken the tiger’s fate is doomed. The demand for tiger parts is increasing and they command very high prices. The natural habitat of tigers need to be improved and there should be continuous monitoring of the situation in the sanctuaries. Tigers cannot be bred in captivity. Therefore it is necessary to provide them the most congenial environment. It is important that the local communities are involved in the conservation efforts.

Along with intensifying the tiger conservation programme, Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh also wants to launch a repopulation plan for cheetahs by importing them. Only Asiatic cheetahs might find the habitats in India suitable for them.

These are now left only in Iran and perhaps Pakistan’s north-western region. Cheetahs need vast open spaces to live. The idea of repopulation is welcome and even exciting but the practical problems in getting them — there are just under 100 of them in the Iran-Pakistan  area — and creating the required conditions for them should be studied thoroughly.

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