Tiger, Tiger, Getting Extinct by Maryam Yasmin (June 29, 2007)

The tiger is the most endangered species, according to a report of World Wide Fund (WWF). It is the most in-demand species being bought, sold, smuggled, killed or captured for trade.

The lord of the jungle has vanished from 50 percent of its historical habitat in Bihar and Rajasthan, and from 30 percent of its accustomed haunts in Central India. The grim findings reveal the tiger being under stress even in the Shivaliks where it has vanished from 30 percent of its earlier areas.

India is the only country to have more than 300 tigers in the wild. But it was not always so. Tiger population in India, at the turn of the 20th century, was placed at 40,000. Subsequently the first ever all India tiger census was conducted, which revealed that there were just 1,827 tigers left. This resulted in the founding of one of the world’s most successful conservation ventures of that time. It was started by the then Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, in 1972 under Wildlife Protection Act. In it the tiger was placed in the First Schedule of endangered animals. Today, there are 27 reserves in India.

The crises began from the greed of poachers. The Wildlife Institute of India revealed that the figures were not even worth comparing with the much higher number estimated earlier. Study after study has shown that it is possible to work out the destiny of tigers by estimating the presence of the prey per sq km.

The three basic reasons for tigers disappearing are: poaching, fragmentation of forests and disappearance of prey.

Conservative estimates of tiger-skin trade between 1994 and May 2006 made by the Wildlife Protection Society of India show that 783 tiger skins were sold through the mafia to markets like China, which generates the greatest demand for tiger skin and bone.

While poaching hits the tiger badly in the short run, fragmentation of forests poses a more sustained threat even within the highly protected tiger reserves. There has been a continuous loss of forest cover. Overall, 94 sq km of tiger habitat within protected areas has been completely lost between 1997and 2002.

Prey species depend on conditions of the habitat -- typical of food chain that starts with the tiger and goes down to grass.

Despite various surveys and reports we do not find any significant step taken in this regard. The various debates and discussions which followed these surveys seem to have provided no direct benefit to these vanishing big cats.


Maryam Yasmin

 

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