Rate of tiger extinction alarming
Statesman News Service
NEW DELHI, 7 JULY: Due to ‘rampant’ poaching and smuggling of tiger skin in the country, 16 tiger reserves in the country might soon lose all their big cats if appropriate measures are not taken to improve the situation.
Admitting this in the Rajya Sabha today, the government said it intends to set up a national tribunal to ensure speedy and stricter punishment for cases related to poaching and other illegal activities in forest reserves.
The minister of state for environment and forests, Mr Jairam Ramesh, said the situation in 16 of the country’s 37 tiger reserves is “truly alarming”.
“These 16 reserves are in the danger zone from where tigers have vanished or are on the brink of vanishing,” he said. Two of the reserves, Sariska and Panna, have already lost all of their big cats mainly due to poaching.
The minister said twelve tiger reserves are in good condition, while the situation in the remaining nine is satisfactory but needs to improve. Tiger killing is rampant in India and smuggling of tiger skin is the second largest after illicit trade in narcotics, Mr Ramesh said. The main reasons for tiger decline include poaching, degradation of forest status outside tiger reserves and protected areas due to human pressure, livestock pressure and ecologically unsustainable land-use. This has caused fragmentation of habitat, leading to mortality of tigers and their prey due to man-animal conflicts, he said.
The minister replied in the affirmative when asked if the Central government was planning to strengthen legislation to curb poaching and other illegal activities in forest reserves.
“This is a very large issue. I am seeking approval for creating a National Green Tribunal. It will hear all cases relating to the environment and forests. The attorney general has supported the proposal (for the tribunal) that was made by the Law Commission. If the act (Wildlife Protection Act) needs to be redone, this will be done,” he said.
The Centre has initiated a programme to involve local communities in protecting tiger population and the first project, which started in Corbett Park in Uttarakhand, will be replicated in other reserves, if it is successful, Mr Ramesh said.
As per latest all India tiger census, the number of big cats is estimated between 1165 and 1657.
The new findings indicate poor status of tiger population in areas outside tiger reserves and some protected areas.