Online edition of India’s National Newspaper
Friday, Feb 22, 2008
From The “Young World” Section
Most of the areas designated as protected are isolated islands of
Tigers are large wild cats. Cats are carnivorous and territorial and
with the exception of lions are solitary animals. These
characteristics translate into specific ecological requirements for
tigers (sufficient numbers of large-sized prey for them to hunt and
feed on, extensive and contiguous habitats with little or no human
disturbance), requirements when compromised negatively impact the
survival of individual tigers and the growth and persistence of tiger
populations. This has been documented in the recently released report
of the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Wildlife
Institute of India ‘Status of tigers, co-predators and prey in
India’. This is the first nation-wide attempt to assess the status of
tiger habitat, its prey species and the population status of tiger
and its associated predators using scientific sampling techniques.
Till now policy makers, wildlife managers and the public including
the media have been obsessed with total counts of endangered species.
Such counts by definition are unreliable.
Currently the estimated population of wild tigers in India is between
a minimum of 1165 and a maximum of 1657 and they occur in several
populations most of which are small and isolated. The states with the
highest numbers of tigers include Madhya Pradesh (236 to 364)
Karnataka (241 to 339) while the numbers are low in states like Bihar
(7 to 13).
Given the current low number of wild tigers and their precarious
conservation status due to their fragmented habitats and extensive
poaching, we as a nation will have to make an immediate and strong
commitment to provide for the ecological needs of the tigers and also
afford its habitat, prey and the tigers themselves adequate
protection. This will show our commitment to the conservation and
survival of our national animal, which has strong cultural links. If
we do not invest sufficient resources soon, it is quite possible that
the tigers will go extinct within the next few years and India would
then have failed its citizens as well as citizens of the world by
mutely presiding over the extinction of probably the most evocative
icon of Indian wilderness.
The writer is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Ashoka Trust for
Research in Ecology and the Environment.
Most of our protected areas are isolated islands of wilderness. They
are set in a matrix of habitat that is increasingly hostile to nature
and have rather small populations of tigers. These need protection
and active management failing which they will become locally extinct
like what happened in Sariska Tiger Reserve.
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