Introduction:

  • Sanctuaries and National Parks are areas of significant ecological, floral, faunal or natural significance.
  • They are notified by State Governments and protected by the Forest Department under the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • Hunting of wild animals, encroachment and/or destruction of habitat, construction of tourist lodges and other such activities are prohibited.
  • A National Park or Wildlife Sanctuary that is considered significant for protecting tigers can be additionally designated as a Tiger Reserve.

What is the structure of a tiger reserve?

  • The tiger reserves are constituted on a core/buffer strategy.
  • The core areas have the legal status of a national park or a sanctuary.
  • The buffer or peripheral areas are a mix of forest and non-forest land, managed as a multiple use area.

Tiger range countries (TRCs):

  • Tiger Range Countries (TRCs) are those where the big cat roams freely.
  • The 13 tiger range countries include Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Number of tigers in India:

  • India is home to 70 percent of tigers in the world.
  • According to World Wildlife Fund and Global Tiger Forum, in 2006, there were 1,411tigers which increased to 1,706 in 2011 and 2,226 in 2014.
  • The total number of wild tigers has gone up to 3891 in 2016.

What are the major threats for tigers in India?

  • The major threats for tigers in India are as follows:

Poaching:

  • In 2017, already 22 cases of poaching-related deaths have come to light.
  • Poaching and the illegal trade is the biggest and most concerning threat that the world’s remaining wild tigers face.
  • Demand for tiger skin, bone and other body parts, involves poaching and trafficking.

Loss of habitat:

  • An increase in human populations throughout tiger range countries has resulted in tiger habitats being reduced.
  • Only 7% of the tiger’s historical range is intact today and tiger habitats are left in isolated areas.
  • This results in small pockets of tiger habitat surrounded by human populations.

Loss of Prey Species:

  • Tiger preys species like deer and pigs, which are often poached and overhunted leading to devastating consequences for tigers.
  • An inadequate supply leads to poor health condition and of food forces tigers to increase their range when searching for a meal.

Human-Wildlife Conflict:

  • As the human population continues to increase, people encroach farther into historic tiger habitat.
  • As a result, human and wildlife conflicts can lead to revenge killings and result in negative attitudes toward tigers that hinder future conservation efforts.

What are the initiatives by the government for conservation of tigers?

  • The initiatives by the government for conservation of tigers are as follows:

‘Project Tiger’

  • ‘Project Tiger’ has been launched by the Government of India in 1973 under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change

Current status:

  • From 9 tiger reserves since its formative years, the Project Tiger coverage has increased to 50 at present, spread out in 18 of tiger range states.

Aims and objectives:

  • The aims and objectives of ‘Project Tiger’ are as follows:
  • To alert the States about any danger as and when required.
  • To transmit backward / forward linkages of information relating to poachers.
  • To advise the States for combing forest floor to check snares / traps.
  • To perform supervisory field visits through the National Tiger Conservation Authority and its regional offices.
  • To use information technology for improved surveillance (e-Eye system) using thermal cameras launched in Corbett.
  • To launch tiger reserve level monitoring using camera trap to keep a photo ID database of individual tigers.
  • To prepare a national database of individual tiger photo captures to establish linkage with body parts seized or dead tigers
  • To assist States to refine protection oriented monitoring through monitoring system for tiger’s intensive protection and ecological status (M-STrIPES)
  • To provide  grant through NTCA for patrolling in tiger rich sensitive forest areas outside tiger reserves

National Tiger Conservation Authority:

  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
  • It is constituted under provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as amended in 2006, for strengthening tiger conservation, as per powers and functions assigned to it under the said Act.

Aims and objectives:

  • The aims and objectives of National Tiger Conservation Authority are as follows:
  • Providing statutory authority to ‘Project Tiger’ so that compliance of its directives becomes legal.
  • Fostering accountability of Center-State in management of Tiger Reserves, by providing a basis for MoU with States within our federal structure.
  • Providing for an oversight by Parliament.
  • Addressing livelihood interests of local people in areas surrounding Tiger Reserves.

Powers and functions:

  • The powers and functions of National Tiger Conservation Authority are as follows:
  • To approve the tiger conservation plan prepared by the State Government under sub-section (3) of section 38V of this Act.
  • To evaluate and assess various aspects of sustainable ecology and disallow any ecologically unsustainable land use such as, mining, industry and other projects within the tiger reserves.
  • To lay down normative standards for tourism activities and guidelines for project tiger from time to time for tiger conservation in the buffer and core area of tiger reserves and ensure their due compliance.
  • To provide for management focus and measures for addressing conflicts of  men and wild animal.
  • To emphasize on co-existence in forest areas outside the National Parks, sanctuaries or tiger reserve, in the working plan code.
  • To provide information on protection measures including future conservation plan, estimation of population of tiger and its natural prey species, status of habitats, disease surveillance, mortality survey, patrolling, reports on untoward happenings and such other management aspects as it may deem fit including future plan conservation.

Tiger Task Force:

  • In 2005, The Prime Minister of India set up the Tiger Task Force to strengthen the conservation of Tigers in the country.

Aims and objectives:

  • The aims and objectives of Tiger Task Force are as follows:
  • To look into the various problems of tiger conservation and suggests methods for its improvement.
  • To check poaching of tigers and all the illegal practices followed in the wildlife sanctuaries.
  • To improve the method of counting and forecasting the tigers.
  • To educate the local indigenous population inhabitant in the parks towards the conservation of tigers.
  • To expand the undisturbed areas for tigers by reducing the human activities in that area.

List of 10 endangered animals in India:

  • India ranks among the top ten species rich nations in the world and is known for its rich biological diversity and high endemism. These endangered animals are as follows:
  • Bengal Tiger: Tadoba National Park, Ranthambore National Park, Sundarbans National Park, Sariska Tiger Reserve, Jim Corbett National Park, Bandhavgarh National Park.
  • Asiatic Lion aka the Indian Lion or Persian Lion: Gir Forest National Park, Gujarat.
  • Snow leopard: Hemis National Park, Ladakh, Nanda Devi National Park, Uttarakhand, Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh, Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary, Lahaul Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, Pin Valley National Park, Lahaul Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, Great Himalayan National Park, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh.
  • Blackbuck: Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal’s Khangchendzonga and Namdapha National Park.
  • One-horned rhino: Kaziranga National Park, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Nilgiri Tahr: Eravikulam National Park, Nilgiri Hills, Anaimalai Hills, Periyar National Park, Palni Hills.
  • Red Panda: Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal’s Khangchendzonga and Namdapha National Park.
  • Kashmir Stag: Dachigam National Park, Rajparian Wildlife Sanctuary, Overa Aru, Sind Valley, and in the forests of Kishtwar and Bhaderwah, all of which are a part of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Lion-tailed macaque: Silent Valley National Park, Kerala, Papanasam part of the Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu and Sirsi-Honnavara rainforests of North-Western Ghats in Karnataka.
  • Indian Bison: Arignar Anna Zoological Park, Chennai and Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala.

What are the reasons for the failure of these initiatives?

  • The reasons for the failure of government schemes for conservation of tigers are as follows:

Difficulties in isolating the core areas:

  • The aim of projects such as ‘Project Tiger’ was to isolate the core areas from human encroachment and the remaining areas were to be made into buffer zones.
  • But in practice however, the complete isolation of core areas proved difficult.

Inefficiency in implementing policies:

  • Even though the government has spent a fortune in the last 10 years but efficient implementation of its policies still remains the crux of the problem.

No proper coordination:

  • There is an immense lack of coordination amongst the bodies dealing with conservation of tigers.
  • There is no intelligence gathering system and if there is some intelligence input, there does not exist adequate action mechanism.

Unskilled forest guards: 

  • Forest guards still haven’t eradicated poaching completely.
  • There is not only a 30% staff shortage in the forest department but also a deficiency of quality weapons.

Improper utilization of funds: 

  • Funds are released by the centre on time but these funds are extremely insufficient.
  • This creates a Shortage of all basic materials required for tiger protection.

Way ahead:

  • The need of the hour is to secure their habitats and corridors and to enhance protective cover of those outside of Protected Area.
  • Vacancies for field staff must be filled and only qualified persons knowing basics of computer and other techniques must be recruited.
  • These staff should be paid reasonably.
  • A proper training needs to be given to newly recruited staff.
  • They should be made part of the government initiatives and good quality weapons should be provided.
  • A legal system that provides very harsh punishment in a quick manner needs to be established.
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