This jungle drives away the big cats, and it is concrete
DNA Monday, November 16, 2009 0:31 IST
New Delhi: Tigers have disappeared from 126 districts across India over the last 100 years and can be found in only 180 of the country’s 593 districts. The main culprit for this approximately 40% shrinkage of habitat is the growth of towns into cities and cities into mega cities.
Wildlife experts also blame organised poaching and ill-equipped forest guards, besides a host of other problems, that severely hamper tiger conservation in the country.
The growth of cities over the last few decades has seen tigers completely disappear from its environs such as Bangalore, Pune, Surat, Jaipur, Udaipur, Ajmer, Agra, Jhansi, Allahabad, Gwalior, Bhopal, Ujjain, Cuttack, and Darjeeling. Though the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) does not identify these places as cities but as districts, experts say the growth of towns into mega cities is the main reason for the decline in the tigers’ natural habitat.
A study by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) says only 180 districts retain conditions favourable for tigers to survive.
“The natural habitat of tigers has declined by 126 districts,” laments Yadvendradas Jhala, a WII faculty member who was a part of the study.
Environmentalists also blame industry and highways for the decline, pointing out that their construction means a large number of trees are cut down, destroying or weakening forest cover. Thus, 40% of India’s total forest of over 67 million hectares is marked as degraded forests.
As per government records, India is home to 1,411 tigers in 37 reserves under Project Tiger.But in the last three years, over 100 tigers have died due to poaching and drug overdose by ill-trained forest guards.
The MoEF has more than 15,000 forest guards to man over 37,000 square kilometres of reserved forests where the tigers live, but the monitoring process leaves much to be desired.
Ministry officials point out that a male tiger needs at least 15-20 sq km of exclusive territory to live in and share with a tigress.
Senior officers say that due to a lack of space, there have been reports of tigers fighting with each other as they seek to mark out their territory, often with fatal consequences.