Memos from Asia

The Thriving Tigers of India

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Tigers are some of the most magnificently big cats.

These beasts that were on the brink of extinction half a century back are slowly making a comeback, and the best place to see that happening is India.

India is home to 70% of the world’s tiger population.

Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi released a quadrennial tiger census report, Status of Tigers in India, 2018, showing an increase in the tiger population around the country.

The country is the first to have achieved the goal of doubling its tiger population by 2022, under the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) program Tx2.

The total population has risen from 2014’s 2226 to 2967 in 2018- up by 33%.

The Areas with Tigers

India’s tiger population varies from region to region. Madhya Pradesh, the state in central India, has the highest numbers of the striped predator estimated at 526.

It is closely followed by its southern neighbor Karnataka which has 524 tigers roaming its forests.

Tigers travel a lot in search of prey and mate. This is why the tiger population in India is better divided by landscape areas rather than states.

There are five regions that are used for census purpose and population division:

  1. Shivalik-Gangetic plains (in North)
  2. Central India and the Eastern Ghats
  3. Western Ghats
  4. North Eastern Hills and Brahmaputra Flood Plains
  5. The Sundarbans (in West Bengal near Bangladesh border)

The Conservation Efforts

Tigers once ruled the jungles of India, but centuries of killings and habitat loss left them on the brink of extinction. In the 1970s, the tiger population in India was less than in 2000.

The government of India gave tiger the title of ‘National Animal’ in 1973 and banned hunting. Conservation effort called Project Tiger was started at the same time, and reserves were set up for tigers. Today, the 50 tiger reserves house 1923 tigers, which is 65% of total tigers in India.

Last year, India allocated US$49.4 million for tiger conservation and relocation of people affected due to conservation efforts. The nation has also built the world’s largest underpass for the carnivores to help them cross a highway.

Work Continues

India has done better than any other country when it comes to saving the tigers. Still, the growing population of big cats requires more forests and prey.

Deforestation and loss of biodiversity continue in India, which can hinder these conservation efforts. Also, the human-animal conflicts keep rising near the boundaries of reserves, forests, and plantations.

The government, NGOs and private foundations have done what once seemed impossible. The future, even with all the problems, looks better than ever before as tigers thrive in India.

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