Tigers in India down to a thousand?
The news is not a shocking and neither is it new. Tigers disappeared from Sariska Game Reserve as far back as 2005. But now its all being raked up again. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in a 2006 report has blamed the Rajasthan Government squarely for its “complete failure” in controlling poaching and encroachment on forest land. This report is being discussed in the current Budget session.
The facts according to the report? The tiger population fell drastically from 47 in 2004 to 26 in 2005 in Ranthambhore and from 16 to zero in Sariska. However, NO tiger poaching cases were registered in either of these two places between January 2003 and March 2005! And of Rs. 38.38 crores allocated for the project, only Rs. 18.40 crore was spent!
However, the official figures are somewhere around 3000 plus and this implies that there is an improvement after 1972, when the first tiger census showed that the number was just 1827. Nine reserves were set up in 1973 – in Assam, Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan and the Sunderbans – to increase the tiger population. However, the steady decline in the number of tigers has not stopped and now there is a growing realisation that Project Tiger has failed. Conservationists do not believe the official figures.
The authorities concede that the disappearance of tigers is due to many factors and amongst the major ones are encroachment of the tiger’s habitat by humans, lack of prey for the tiger in the reserves (there is poaching of deer and small animals as well), mismanagement and corruption.
Sariska is just one tiger reserve from a list of 28, where poaching is a severe problem. Numbers have fallen drastically in Ranthambhore, the list of missing felines in Panna is long, and Bandhavgarh has seen a recent spate of tiger deaths. There has been no sign of the tiger in Buxa for the past year, Dampha is a similar story and no one knows the fate of tigers in Nagarjunasagar and Indravati, under the influence of Naxalites. All of the above are Sariskas in the making, unless we act, now.
There is one reserve which is showing good results. At the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in Maharashtra, tigers have increased from 27 in 1995 to 41 in 1006.
Overall however the situation is dismal. And ironically the tiger is India’s national animal! But I guess with corruption touching every aspect of life, it is impossible that tigers would be spared. Also, poaching/hunting is not carried out just to make money – there are those in India who view hunting as a sport. The most sensational cases involve Salman Khan the film star and Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi the well known cricketer, both of whom were accused of poaching a black buck, an endangered species.
(Photo sourced from the bbc)
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