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Save the Tiger, Save the Forests - Sariska Relocation

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July 30, 2021

What is the issue?

  • Tiger happens to be at the pinnacle of the eco-system triangle. Saving tigers is much like saving the forests.
  • Here is a look at the tiger conservation efforts in India, with particular reference to relocations made in Rajasthan.

Why are tigers, and conserving them, so significant?

  • As top predators, wild tigers play an important role in maintaining the harmony of the planet’s ecosystems.
  • The tiger moves in a big territory and requires a sizeable forest area.
  • So, tiger conservation efforts with landscape connectivity and conservation involve measures in such a large range.
  • Consequently, it leads to the betterment and strengthening of the entire biosphere.

What were the results of Project Tiger?

  • At the beginning of the 20th century, the number of Indian tigers was around 40,000.
  • After Independence, tigers were killed mercilessly and the 1972 tiger census put their numbers at less than 1500.
  • [The tigers were killed and their parts were sold to South-East Asian countries, for medicinal purposes.]
  • To preserve the tiger, the Indian government banned their hunting and launched ‘Project Tiger’ in 1973.
  • It created tiger reserves in the country.
  • The viable tiger population in their natural habitat was also maintained.
  • Starting with nine tiger reserves in 1973, there are now around 50 tiger reserves in India.
  • The project totally covers an area of nearly 40000 sq. km.

What led to the constitution of the NTCA?

  • At the beginning of the 21st century, the tiger population again started declining.
  • The main Protected Area which was left without tigers due to hunting and poaching activities was the Sariska Tiger Reserve (Rajasthan) in 2004-2005.
  • Subsequently, the Panna Tiger Reserve (M.P) faced the same in 2007-2008.
  • This led to several inquiry commissions, at national and state levels to find out the reason behind it.
  • Subsequently, the government reconstituted ‘Project Tiger’ and converted it into the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
  • The NTCA had more power to check poaching and preserve the tiger population.
  • Its mandate included setting up Tiger Protection Force and funding the relocation of villages from the protected areas.

What were the corrective measures taken in Sariska?

  • The Rajasthan government took up the challenge to reintroduce tigers in Sariska and set up a task force in June 2008.
  • The Wildlife Institute of India and World Wide Fund were approached.
  • This was to plan and organize a population estimation exercise in Ranthambhore & Sariska.
  • The genetic studies were undertaken to identify tigers suitable for translocation.
  • For the first time in the history of tiger conservation, the wild cats were translocated from Ranthambhore to Sariska.
  • The tiger population increased at a rapid speed from 1,411, as per the tiger census in 2006, to 2,226 in 2015 and 2,967 in 2018.

Why was relocation essential?

  • Due to the loss of the forest corridors, tigers were surviving only in pockets like Sariska, Panna and Ranthambhore Tiger Projects.
  • As these pockets were not connected, there was inbreeding of tigers.
  • This, in the long run, would have affected their biological fitness, among other issues.
  • Another factor important for tiger reserves is to have the right male and female ratio.
  • These issues could only be corrected/addressed by relocation.

What are the other issues to be addressed?

  • Every year, more than 100 tigers die due to several reasons (like health factors or poaching).
  • Although protected areas are fundamental for their survival, a connecting landscape is also essential as they move between different habitats.
  • These areas often have limited protection as many developments, mining, and extraction projects diminish the forest areas.
  • It also gives additional opportunities to poachers to kill and hunt tigers and leopards.

What should be done?

  • Engaging local communities should be a key component of conservation efforts.

 

Source: The Indian Express

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