I was recently watching a video, shot by my brother-in law, when he was visiting the "Kanha National Park "in India. It was of a magnificent tiger who just walked past their open jeep in all its glory.
This suddenly brought back the memories of my school days, when I had snagged a book from my fathers collection called as "Man-eaters of Kumaon" by Jim Corbett.
The book was about Corbett's experiences with man eating tigers in the Kumaon region of India and how he saved the lives of many people by killing the tigers. Jim Corbett is still famous for being a naturalist and conservationist and a National park has been named in his honor.
The book fueled in me the desire to see a tiger at close range.Though I had seen quite a few at the circus and zoo , watching it at close range was a different experience all together. There is nothing comparable to seeing a wild animal in its natural habitat.
Many of us are still oblivious of the fact as to how closely our existence depends on that of wild animals. Even though we consider ourselves to be at the top of the food chain and grossly misuse our power, the fact remains that, our species can be wiped out due to gross negligence and misguided beliefs of humans being the "be all and end all" of this world. As an "Apex Predator" the tiger is at the top of the natural food chain and holds the key in preserving the water,air and forests. By eating 60-80 animals a year , a Tiger keeps check on the population of herbivores , who otherwise would denude the forest with excessive grazing and turn it into barren lands.
The fate of the tiger and in turn our own fate is in our hands. But sadly in 1970's we came dangerously close to losing this magnificent species "Panthera Tigris". Deforestation, poaching and human expansion brought all the species of tigers to the brink of extinction. There were 8 sub species out of which the Javan , Caspian and Balinese are already extinct. Studies of tiger population estimate, that 100 years ago approx 100,000 tigers roamed all across India , South East Asia ,Central Asia and Eastern China . Now only 5000 - 7000 remain in the wild in small pockets of Habitat across the globe.
In 1973, India launched "Project Tiger" which is a wildlife conservation programme which aims at tiger conservation in specially constituted tiger reserves representative of various bio-geographical regions throughout India. It strives to maintain a viable tiger population in their natural environment. The first tiger census in 1972 put the tiger population at 1827. The recent report "Status of Tigers , Co-Predators ,Prey in India" by National Tiger Conservation Society and Wildlife Institute of India puts the the tiger figures at 1411. http://projecttiger.nic.in/whtsnew/status_of_tigers_in_india_2008.pdf
The largest ever animal census in world history— outlines the many threats the tiger now faces.The report states “The tiger has lost much ground due to direct poaching, loss of quality habitat and loss of its prey,” it notes. “In the past 50 years, humans have changed these ecosystems largely to meet growing demand for food, fresh water,timber,fibre and fuel, more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period of time in human history".
The rampat poaching for every part of the tigers body also adds to it . Sariska National Park is a National Embarrasment where, in 2004, poachers emptied the park of its tigers. A tiger skeleton can fetch as much as Rs. 300,000 on the black market.Poorly equipped and poorly paid forest staff can be no match to poachers.
There are a number of agencies and groups all across the globe supporting for the conservation of tiger. Inspite of all these efforts the population has depleted.Poor Management, corruption, lack of funding and out dated scientific methods have led to the slow degradation of the "Project tiger".
Its time to join hands and raise our voice with conservationist like "Valmik Thapar" who are fighting tirelessly to save the Indian tiger from extinction.
If stronger steps are not taken,our future generations will know of the TIGER only through videos,poems and photographs.
"Tiger Tiger Burning Bright, In the forest of the night..." -- William Blake.