The Indian tiger is in danger. And this time the situation is much grave. The reason: direct poaching, loss of natural habitat and prey, say wildlife experts. A recent government survey took place in 23 reserves in the 17 states of India where a changed monitoring technique ensured a significant drop in numbers. Cameras were used instead of counting pugmarks and the country which was once considered to be home to nearly 40% of the world’s tiger population barely managed less than half of the earlier survey that took place in 2002. In over 5 years the number has come down to a mere 1400 from 3,642.
Different reasons for different areas, the answer is still disheartening; sharp fall in the numbers of tigers spotted. For the past many years no tiger has been spotted in Sariska, this survey also only strengthens the belief. Direct poaching could not be controlled hence no tiger! Human beings have been a major threat to the tigers. Tiger areas have been violated and an increase in encroachments on forests has resulted in plummeted numbers. The only good news is from Tamil Nadu where the numbers have actually increased from 60 to 76. All this brings only one thing, nothing or very little has been done in tiger protection.
Rajesh Gopal, member secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) said,
The Wildlife Crime Bureau has been set up. But many states are yet to give details about poaching. What’s more, many forest guards and other field level, frontline staff posts lie empty. There are about 17,500 vacant posts. Guards are badly paid and under-armed, giving them little incentive. This, despite the prime minister taking up the matter with the chief ministers.
Killed mainly for body parts, tigers are a big fashion commodity. A tiger pelt would sell anywhere near £8000 in China and teeth ,claws, whiskers and bones are on sale in one out of ten retail counters in Sumatra. Even stringent laws are unable to stop the illegal poaching and tiger skin trade is a flourishing business between Nepal, India and China.
Valmik Thapar, advisor to Indian Prime Minister on Wildlife, said,”We have to create inviolate areas for tigers and provide modern weapons to forest guards.” And like always, this time too the Indian government has done what it can do best; make promises. Promises of building eight new tiger reserves and reloacting over 250 villages for the purpose. Over 200,000m people will be paid about £12,500 each for this purose and cost taxpayers about £80 million.