Project Tiger - About The Tiger
The Tiger is the Largest Wild Cat species in the World : The Siberian or Amur Tiger can weigh up to 320 kg, followed closely by the Royal Bengal Tiger which can even weigh up to 300 kg. They are solitary hunters, who hunt by stealthily approaching their prey upto 10 metres in distance before they are likely to be successful in their attempt usually. Despite their large size, they are an extremely agile animal and can even hit speeds of up to 60 kmph in short bursts. A single leap of a tiger can exceed 20 feet! Their large size demands for large home ranges and ideally anywhere between 30 sq km to 150 sq km varying between subspecies. It is usually the Males who have a large territory and they try to defend their areas from other males who may enter to establish their own ground, or to vie for the Female Tigers which are present in an existing Males’ territory,It is this need for habitat which brings them into contact with humans and creates conflict situations due hunting of livestock and rare attacks on humans. A rather fascinating truth is that its clear superiority in size and strength notwithstanding, avoids contact with people and will even hide away from even a single person if their paths cross. Hence their nickname of “The Gentleman of the Jungle”.
In an overpopulated country such as India, it is inevitable that the Cat comes into conflict with humans on a daily basis – yet attacks on Man around the 50 Tiger Reserves of India are few and far between. Compensation packages to the victim in cases of death of livestock outside the boundaries of the National Parks ensures that the agitation against the Tiger does not reach an impossible situation with the locals. A Tigress can give birth to upto 5 cubs, however the occurrence of Tigers with 5 cubs is extremely rare and only been observed in only a couple of individuals in Central India. The average litter is 2-3 cubs ; of which only one may successfully be dispersed. They are a forest animal, and rarely venture in the open like the Lion. Their stripes make for useful camouflage in such habitat. Young Male Tigers when dispensed from their mothers tutelage at around 18-22 months, are most likely to travel fair distance in order to find new areas, and due to competition with older and probably larger Male Tigers in their prime, may have to undertake extremely perilous journeys across human habitation, rural and developed, exceeding 200 km to find new forest areas and compete for territory. Not many make it, but the ones who do survive through life-threatening dangers faced due to lack of well-connected forest corridors in India. Worshipped in traditional Hindu and Tribal culture in India, the Tiger is feared and respected at the same time. However, with increasing emphasis on policies for development – the long-term success of Project Tiger hangs in the balance.
India is now home to almost 75% of the world’s Wild Tigers. The relative transparency in the estimation process and the dedication to the project in India of Saving the Tiger is unparalleled.
A rough estimation put the Tiger numbers at around 40000-50000 at the turn of the last century. Since then hunting, poaching and habitat destruction has decimated the Tiger population in India. The demand for parts of the Tiger for traditional ancient medicine and bravado on the part of the people of India after Independence from British Rule, has generally resulted the Tiger population coming to an all-time low after they were treated like vermin in India.
It was only till around 1970, after a period of sustained pressure and data collection of notable Zoologist and Conservationist Mr.Kailash Sankhla, the Government of India was made aware of the need to protect the massacred Tiger and the importance of protecting it as a keystone species. The Prime Minister of India Mrs.Indira Gandhi who was empathetic towards the cause of Wildlife agreed to eventually have the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 drafted which banned hunting of all species of Wildlife and offered them legal protection in India.
Mr.Kailash Sankhla was appointed as the first Director of Project Tiger. Project Tiger was subsequently launched in 1973, and Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve in Uttarakhand was the first Tiger Reserve brought under its wing. A further 08 Tiger Reserves were demarcated with around 9115 sq km of protected forest – this figure today stands at around 71,000 sq km of protected area and 50 Tiger Reserves established in India in total.
The NTCA is the Apex body which administers Project Tiger.
Powers and functions of the National Tiger Conservation Authority as prescribed under Section 38O of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, according to www.projecttiger.nic.in as amended in 2006 are as under:-
> To approve the Tiger Conservation Plan prepared by the State Governments.
> 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.
> 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.
> Provide for management focus and measures for addressing Conflicts of Men and Wild Animal and to emphasize on co-existence in forest areas outside the National Parks, Sanctuaries or Tiger Reserve, in the working plan code.
> 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 Conservation Plan.
> Approve, co-ordinate Research and Monitoring on tiger, co-predators, prey habitat, related ecological and socio-economic parameters and their evaluation.
> Ensure that the Tiger reserves and areas linking one protected area or tiger reserve with another protected area or tiger reserve are not diverted for ecologically unsustainable uses, except in public interest and with the approval of the National Board for Wild Life and on the advice of the Tiger Conservation Authority.
> Facilitate and support the Tiger Reserve Management in the State for biodiversity conservation initiatives through Eco-development and People’s Participation as per approved management plans and to support similar initiatives in adjoining areas consistent with the Central and State laws.
> Ensure critical support including Scientific, Information Technology and Legal Support for better implementation of the Tiger Conservation Plan.
> Facilitate ongoing Capacity-building Program for Skill Development of officers and staff of Tiger Reserves.
> Perform such other functions as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this Act with regard to Conservation of Tigers and their Habitat.
Each Tiger Reserve is divided into 02 areas :
> Core Area /Critical Tiger Habitat :
This is the critical habitat of surviving Tigers and prey species which can support or already support Tiger populations in the landscape due to favorable ecological conditions having potential for improving existing habitat to ensure long-term success of the species.
No human activity save for conservation-related or Park-management related activities are permitted here. Everyday tasks of wood collection, grazing and utilization of forest produce is banned.
Tourism is permitted, however according to NTCA guidelines, only upto 20% of the Core Area is available for Wildlife Tourism. These areas usually have a legal status of National Park or Wildlife Sanctuary.
> Buffer Area :
Demarcated areas adjoining or surrounding the Core Area have been given the status of the Buffer Area.
These are peripheral areas of the Core, or newly created habitat for wildlife which inevitably spills over from the declared Core Area. However, activities such as livestock grazing, controlled collection of firewood and minimal use of forest produce for the sake of livelihood by the locals is permitted.
Forest Check-Posts and Patrolling Camps have been strategically established across Tiger Reserves in the Core and Buffer Areas to mitigate poaching threats and ensure management of the reserve and swift action in case of emergency situations.
Many villages located in the identified Critical Tiger Habitats in India, and in new areas scouted for establishment of new Tiger Reserves created the need of managing to educate locals of the benefits of moving away and thereby receiving compensatory packages for moving out of the Critical Tiger Habitat, along with government assistance to resettle.
56,247 families across 751 villages of the 50 Tiger Reserves have been earmarked for relocation, out of which 12,327 families from 173 villages have been successfully relocated out of these areas.
The challenge of Human Rights, Political pressure and vested interest groups has definitely ensured that this task be a Herculean effort – however, relatively good governance practices and diligence of the various Forest Departments has resulted in various positive breakthroughs for Project Tiger.
In light of heavy poaching and formation of strong poaching networks by smugglers within India, a need fore greater monitoring and an additional a layer of protection was included in the year 2005.
Following the exposure by the media and ground-level conservationists on the sudden disappearance of Tigers in the notable plight of Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, The Prime Minister of India Mr. Manmohan Singh set up the Tiger Task Force to strengthen the conservation of the National Animal of India.
> Looking into the various problems of Tiger Conservation and suggesting methods for its improvement.
> Improving methods to check-poaching of tigers and illegal practices followed in the wildlife sanctuaries.
> To improve the method of counting and forecasting Tigers.
> To educate the local indigenous population inhabitant in the parks towards the conservation of tigers.
> The task force should submit its reports within 03 months from the date of notification and should review it from time to time.
> Improve efforts to mitigate wildlife crime and to break the international trade network in wildlife body parts and derivatives.
> The sitting fees and travel cost would be reimbursed to the members of the Task Force as per the norms.
> Expanding the undisturbed areas for tigers by reducing the human activities in that area.
These efforts have shown relative success, and from the figures of 1400 or so Tigers in India in 2006, the figures of the 2018 census show an increase as the figures stand at 3000 Tigers according to official government reports. Adopting more effective use of technology to crack down international poaching mafias and better ground-lever management has resulted in a reduction in poaching. Methods of counting Tigers have provided more accurate results, due to the increased use of camera-traps rather than the Pug-mark casting method. This has resulted in discovery of Tigers in new habitats and a more scientific and fool-proof method of counting tigers which was used a decade ago is now in place.
However, the largest threat faced by Tigers and Wildlife in general in India is the huge population of 1.2 billion in India and the pressures faced by the Land and Natural Resources of the country. The promise of the government to drive towards development of relatively rural India comes at a price, and while the number of Tigers shows an increase due to better methodology of counting and effective measures against poaching, habitat loss and climate change is tough to reverse and thus the future of the Tiger in India is far from secure. A seismic shift in mindset of Indian citizens and favorable government policies towards Sustainable Development are the need of the hour today. Achieving this reality is still a while away in India. India’s protected forest cover is about 3% of its total land mass today.
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