International Tiger Day: There are only 3,890 tigers are left in the world

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In 2010, 13 Asian nations that are home to tigers, including India, joined together in the Global Tiger Recovery Program, pledging to double the global tiger population by 2022
In 2010, 13 Asian nations that are home to tigers, including India, joined together in the Global Tiger Recovery Program, pledging to double the global tiger population by 2022

Marked as an occasion to raise public awareness and support for tiger conservation, Global Tiger Day also known as the International Tiger Day — will be celebrated on Sunday. Srinivas Reddy, the chief conservator of forests, Melghat Tiger Reserve, in a statement issued Saturday, said Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Bhutan, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, China, Malaysia, Russia, Nepal and Myanmar are among the few countries that have wild tigers.

In India, the count of big cats is increasing constantly. In 2006, there were 1,411 tigers, which increased to 1,706 in 2010 and 2,226 in 2014. Around 97 per cent of the world tiger population perished in the last 100 years and according to the latest statistics, only 3,890 tigers are left in the world, out of which 2,226 are in India.

Major threats to the tiger include habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation and commercial poaching for fur and body parts, which have simultaneously reduced tiger populations in the wild. Melghat Tiger Reserve was established in Maharashtra in 1972 when ‘Project Tiger’ was launched. According to the tiger census, carried out in 2017, Melghat has 41 adult tigers and 18 cubs.

Forest officials are working hard to resolve the drinking water problems for wildlife and started constructing gabion structures, earthen dams and cement bandhara to conserve water for the big cats. Also, water tankers are used to fill the artificial waterholes inside the forest in order to provide round-the-clock water to wild animals. The country’s first Wildlife Crime Cell has been established by the forest department at Melghat Tiger Reserve to stop the poaching of tigers and other wild animals. More than 50 poachers were caught from all over India in various cases.

For much of the last century, the tiger’s future hasn’t been so bright: in their native Asian habitats, tigers face poaching, unchecked deforestation, increased human encroachment and disappearing prey. But recent national and international programs have helped the species find some footing. In 2010, 13 Asian nations that are home to tigers, including India, joined together in the Global Tiger Recovery Program, pledging to double the global tiger population by 2022 — the next Year of the Tiger per the Chinese horoscope. The group also decided to annually mark July 29 as Global Tiger Day.

India’s track record with tiger populations has been encouraging. Numbers have steadily risen in census reports since 2006 with the 2014 survey finding an estimated 2,226 wild tigers across the country. The 2018 All India Tiger Estimation is currently underway and is said to be the world’s largest wildlife survey in terms of “coverage, the intensity of sampling and quantum of camera trapping.”

‘We don’t take it seriously enough’

“I’m proud of what India has done because we’ve secured our tiger population,” Prerna Singh Bindra, a leading conservationist and a former member of the National Wildlife Board, tells TIME. But, she adds, “No tiger is safe as long as there is demand around the world.”

Tiger bones and other parts are sought-after ingredients in traditional East Asian medicines and, sadly, tiger skins are still prized trophies for hunters everywhere. The Wildlife Protection Society of India has been tracking yearly poaching deaths since 1994 and recorded a maximum of 121 deaths in 1995 and a minimum of 13 in 2011; 37 tigers were killed by poachers last year.

Poaching was, at least partly, the cause for Rajasthan’s Sariska Tiger Reserve losing all its big cats in the early 2000s. Concerned experts and naturalists alerted the government to the disaster, which led to the creation of the National Tiger Conservation Authority in 2005. The body oversees nation-wide conservation efforts now.

Many times, poachers aren’t outsiders but villagers living in tribal communities within the tiger reserves and national parks. Tough lives with little or no access to basic necessities like medical facilities, electricity and schools push some to use their knowledge of the land and offer up their services to shady buyers.

On the occasion of the International Tiger Day, walls of Amravati railway station are being covered with wildlife paintings, to create awareness about the importance of protection of tigers. A new initiative to make people earn a livelihood has been started by Melghat Tiger Reserve in eight villages near Dhyanaganga Sanctuary in Buldana district.

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