Burning Issues

Vanishing Stripes

M.K.S. Pasha, Director, Wildlife Conservation & Research

Wildlife Protection Society of India, New Delhi.

The tiger population in the country is officially estimated to be 3,000 - 3,500. Many of the tiger populations across the nation, particularly those outside protected reserves, face a variety of threats, including habitat fragmentation, encroachment, and poaching and developmental projects. These problems are directly or indirectly linked to anthropogenic factors.   

Decades of scientific research on tigers and their prey have provided us with a set of guidelines to develop and design protected areas to help the species survive. However, these reserves protect only a fraction of the tiger habitat, and most are under severe human pressure. In the last few years, tiger poaching has increased dramatically, fueled by illegal trade in tiger body parts.

Large development projects, such as mining and hydroelectric dams, constructions of highways are also taking their toll on the tiger's habitat. In the past few years, thousands of square kilometers of forestland have been diverted and destroyed to facilitate such projects. Though mostly outside the protected network, the loss of this vital habitat will have serious repercussions on tiger conservation in India.

As per the WPSI crime database a total of 95 tigers are known to have died in 1994, 89 tigers killed in 1997 and 36 tigers killed in 1998. These figures, however, are incomplete and represent only a fraction of the actual poaching activity in India. Despite all these problems, India still holds the best chance for saving the tiger in the wild. Tigers occur in 18 States within the Republic of India, with 10 States reportedly having populations in excess of 100 tigers. There are still areas with relatively large tiger populations and extensive tracts of protected habitat.

The Project Tiger was launched in 1973, with the goal to save the tiger and its habitat in India. With an initial list of 9 Tiger Reserves, this Project covers 27 Tiger Reserves across the country, covering an area of 37, 761sq. km. Though this Project has tackled various issues over the past 20 years, it has not been able to keep pace with the rapid changes that have not only changed the tiger landscape but also have increased the pressures on it. As the poaching of tiger and illegal trade in its body parts has become a global issue. Saving the tiger is not only the duty of the forest staff and the government but the onus lies on every citizen of this country. Together we have to work hard

and make sure that the stripes do not vanish from the forest.

Vanishing Stripes
Tigers are hunted for their skin,
bones, and body parts
Save the Tiger

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