Tigers are considered as an 'Umbrella Species' as their conservation saves many other animal species. India has doubled its tiger population ahead of the target year of 2022. Project Tiger, launched in 1973, has been a success story despite the seemingly insurmountable challenges of poaching, loss of habitat, human and wildlife conflict, and climate change. Today, on July 29, the world is observing Global Tiger Day! Established in 2010 at Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit, July 29th is dedicated to worldwide awareness and support for tiger conservation. This year, the Global Tiger Day is celebrated with the slogan, “Their Survival in Our Hands”.
Less than a century ago, 100,000 tigers roamed the forests of Asia, but today’s reality is that there are only 4000 tigers are surviving in their natural environment.
India is currently home to nearly 3000 tigers marking a 33 percent jump in their number from the last census four years ago. India has 50 reserves with 2,967 tigers which are 70 percent of the total tiger population in the world.
According to the fourth round of tiger census, there are currently 2967 tigers in India in 2018 as against 2226 in 2014. This means an increase of 741 tigers in the last four years because of the conservation initiatives taken by the Centre and state governments. Compared to 2006 when the scientific method of tiger counting began, the numbers doubled – from 1411 in 2006.
Since 2006, India has been conducting the all India tiger estimation once every four years. Three cycles of the estimation have already been completed in 2006, 2010, and 2014. Though India launched Project Tiger in 1973, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) was set up only in 2006. It came as a response to the drastic fall in tiger numbers as highlighted by the local extinction of tigers in Sariska and Panna Tiger reserves
With the primary issues of poaching, habitat destruction and man-animal conflict, the future of India’s iconic Big Cat remains a matter of great concern.
Apart from tackling the serious issue of poaching and trade in tiger parts, one of the main issues that require immediate attention in regard to tiger conservation is the fragmentation, degradation, and shrinking of habitat. A rise in the encroachments into protected areas, deforestation and conversion of buffer zones into farmland are dangerous for the tiger’s life. It resulted in the shrinking of the sizes of tiger reserves.
Today India has almost twice the number of tigers than it did a decade ago; however, the threats to India’s big cats remain as potent as ever. India’s reported tiger deaths related to poaching peaked in 2016, according to World Wildlife Fund-India. There were 50 poaching-related deaths in 2016, according to the Wildlife Protection Society of India, the highest in 15 years.
Those who study English literature must be known to British poet William Blake’s famous poem on tiger ----
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the Forests of the Night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
Poet, painter and visionary William Blake worked to bring about a change both in the social order and in the minds of men. Blake wrote this poem in 1774, there were around 100 thousand tigers roaming this planet in Nature. In the second line, the poet writes about, ‘Forest of the Night’ which is the home of the tiger. There were hardly one billion people on the planet and there was no Global Tiger Day celebration then.
- Prabhakar Purandare