Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Of late it has become common to see a number of hoardings showing a little tiger cub against the number 1411 in bold. Equally common is the buzz about Tiger Conservation on TV ads, facebook and twitter. What’s with this sudden concern for the tiger???

Obviously it isn't very pleasant to think that the much dreaded Sher Khan of The Jungle Book may soon become a figment of our imagination. Its equally disheartening to tell a little girl that Tigger, Winnie the Pooh's buddy, may not be with us for long. Pondering over this question, I also remembered having studied that the Tiger is our National Animal and since we are on the verge of losing this national symbol forever, I understand India's concern. But Indians are not the only ones who are concerned. What might be the reason??? One more question that was troubling me was "Why the Tiger???", after all, its not the only animal that is endangered.

I wanted to delve deeper into these questions, so, I started going through a number of sites and online material on this topic. The amount of information available on this issue astounded me and I only thought it proper to share the little that I learned with all of you.

Why the Tiger???
The tiger is the top of the food chain, the ultimate consumer. It depends on other species and natural resources for its existence. A healthy tiger population is an indicator of a healthy eco-system. If the tiger is fighting for survival, it means that there are a lot of weak links in the food chain and we may soon have many more species fighting for life.

India and the Tiger
Out of all the countries that are habitat to the Tiger, India has the privilege of boasting of the largest wild population of tigers. But, the recent tiger census shows this large population numbering at a meager 1411 - a number not at all to be proud of. In the beginning of the 19th century the total number of wild tigers in India was estimated around 40,000 and within a span of a hundred years this has reduced by a whopping 96.5% to 1411.

Project Tiger (now known as National Tiger Conservation Authority - NTCA) that was started in April, 1972 under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 has done phenomenal work in the area of conservation of the tiger and other endangered species. A number of tiger reserves have been established under this project to protect this species. Although the status of the tigers in these reserves is good, the condition is dismal outside.

The Problems
Poaching is the biggest menace that the tiger population is facing. There is a huge foreign demand for tiger products in the form of medicines, tiger-skin and talismans. Poachers are exploiting the vulnerability of this species to earn quick money with little effort. The Tiger and Other Endangered Species Crime Control Bureau has been setup to look into these crimes and the punishment in cases of offences relating to tigers has been enhanced.

Another growing nuisance is the reduction of the forest cover for purposes of agriculture, dwelling and timber. The tiger is a territorial animal. What this means is that no two tigers share their area. The area of the male tigers is overlapped with smaller areas of the female tigers, but, the areas of two male tigers never overlap. The reduction of forest cover causes reduction in the area available to the tigers. As a result, the tigers are forced to move towards human settlements, which is harmful to both humans and the tigers.

Steps towards a Solution
The need of the hour is a partnership between the government and the citizens to save this dwindling species. A number of NGOs have risen to this cause and have been fundamental in spreading awareness about this issue. But, some NGOs are using this cause as a tool for fake publicity through the media. We need to act responsibly and apprise the Forest Department of any complaints that we have, before shouting out on the television. In addition, we need to say a big NO to all sorts of animal products and be watchful about the crimes against all the endangered species. Most importantly we need to raise our voice against deforestation - the cause for most of the natural and environmental ills.

Looking Forward
The tiger is a resilient species. It can quickly breed if it is allowed to live in peace and is given adequate space. It is time to join the dots to restore the stripes.

For those of you, who might want to learn more, please follow the links below:
1. Project Tiger
2. Save Our Tigers

You can also go through the bi-monthly journal(Nov-Dec 2009 edition) of NTCA at Stripes.

N.B.: While every caution has been taken to provide my readers with accurate information and honest analysis, please use your discretion before quoting or taking any decisions based on the information in this blog.