Tigers are a precious commodity today, as their very delicate population continues to diminish as a result of habitat loss, poaching and other human-related factors. While tigers are generally found throughout Southeast Asia and China, India remains the most prolific home of these magnificent animals, and boasts the highest population numbers thereof.
This is quite a feat, considering that only slightly more than 10% of the original tiger habitat remains available to tigers in India. This percentage, provided by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), is further compromised by being fragmented and undergoing regular degradation by human beings and other natural factors (such as fires and floods).
In India, one of the main tiger protection initiatives is called Project Tiger. This initiative was started in 1973 by Indira Gandhi and has, to date, established more than 25 tiger reserves throughout the country. In order to protect these animals as much as possible, these reserves have been established on reclaimed land, where human development and inhabitation is forbidden.
As a result of this programme and its efforts, the population of Bengal Tigers had increased from about 1 200 in 1973 to an impressive 3 500+ in 2007. Although poaching remains a huge threat, and thousands of tigers have been killed as a result, these conservation and protection efforts cannot be ignored. Sadly, though, about 60% of the tigers alive in the census of 2007 have been slaughtered at the hands of illegal hunters.
The main aim of Project Tiger has been to aid and facilitate the breeding of tigers within a safe environment and then transport these tigers further afield so that the world’s population can be upped.
Project Tiger has also established the Tiger Protection Force with the aim of catching poachers and stopping the killing. This initiative has been instrumental in relocating about 200 000 villagers in the rural areas so that they are no longer living within the natural habitat of the tigers. This reduces the risk of tiger attacks on humans (which often leads to the killing of the tiger for the safety of the villagers).
Project Tiger is under the administration of the National Tiger Conservation Authority; which is, in turn, under the umbrella of a Steering Committee. By using wireless communication devices, the incidents of successful poaching attempts have been decreased dramatically. In addition, Project Tiger undertakes various initiatives to improve the quality and quantity of the vegetations so that tigers and their prey have sufficient food and shelter.
Project Tiger is required to gather an enormous amount of information in order to accomplish its task effectively. It is currently in the process of putting together a map of India pertaining only to its tiger populations. But this requires plenty of research, data validation and ongoing maintenance. Of course, this requires funds and expertise.<
India Tiger is another initiative with a similar view to protecting and conserving tigers. This project is focussed on the tourism industry and how it can be tailored to assist in such efforts. They do this by making tourists aware of the issues, linking commercial tourist activities with various conservation programmes, providing support for local communities, managing natural resources in the most responsible ways, assisting forest guards to remain well and free from debilitating mosquito bites, and providing free food and accommodation to television crews that visit the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve to promote tourism.
India Tiger only buys local goods and uses local services, and they encourage tourists to do the same. This minimises the environmental damage inflicted by overusing foreign resources, and so on.
As those that are interested and invested in the safety of the world’s tigers, we are grateful to such formal organisations and appreciate the immense effort that goes into their work.