28 Jan 2015

Rise of Tiger Population : Strong Positive Indicator for India and the World !

An argument with a friend sometime back kept me wondering “I don’t give a damn if there are 1400 tigers or 10 or none in wild. What it has to do with humans? It’s just that our future generations may not be able to see them, no big deal”. While I was deeply hurt with this argument, it also raised a concern, is this how people think of wildlife? Do they really don’t know its value. That the diversity of species around us is result of millions of years of evolution with each species has a role to play and that we can’t survive for long if we keep destroying them.

Tigress Maya at Tadoba National Park
Tigress Maya at Tadoba National Park ( Pic courtesy: Anand Meduri (Friend) )
Tiger is the supreme predator that sits at the top of the food chain, is a regulator of almost everything below. Talking science, Tigers keep a check on population and distribution of other species below the food chain, all the way till autotrophs, the primary food producers. Inversely, it’s also dependent on them. Not to forget the role played by each species also in the hierarchy. Thus presence of tigers in a forest is indicator of a healthy ecosystem and each effort to preserve them boils to preserving the entire pyramid of species that lies below.
Population estimate of Tigers in India

Population estimate of Tigers in India
Pic courtesy : hindustantimes.com
India with a billion plus population has a huge strain towards its forests. And with our motives of economical freedom and development we are exploiting behind our important assets, our forests. Forests are natural lungs of our planet that sucks in all our pollutants, regulate temperatures, regulate climate and other natural processes. Historically India has a high tolerance towards wildlife and lived in harmony with it for thousands of years. Urbanization has changed the purview, our forests are depleting at drastic scales, but still we have some sensitivity towards our national animal, the Tigers. The recent census has shown a promising increase in their population in wild, from 1706 in 2010 to 2226 as per latest estimates is good news for each one of us. With our forests shrinking to fewer pockets, conservation of tigers leaves a scope of protecting our forests as well. Tigers predate in huge territories and hence an increasing population implies we need to preserve (even increase) our green cover to sustain them and also the entire food chain below. This means apart from green cover, with tiger population we are retaining our biodiversity, some of which is found in India and nowhere else in the world.

Population estimate of Tigers in India
Pic courtesy : indianexpress.com
With 8% bio-diversity of world that is at times compared to that of entire Africa India has huge potential to promote wildlife tourism. India house 50% of entire tiger population of world, which in itself indicates this potential. And this could be recursive as tourism can provide the revenue to sustain the preservation efforts, at the same time lobbying for these ecosystems.

The bounce back of tiger population would not have been possible, without the efforts within the wildlife sanctuaries. One such example can be given of Bhadra wildlife sanctuary in Karnataka where the forest guards shouldered this important task and saved the forest from poaching, tackling human-animal conflicts and also keeping a nerve of forest fires. A comprehensive relocation program, first one in India, for people residing in 26 villages within the reserve has proved to be one of the key factors for its success.

Population estimate of Tigers in India
Pic courtesy : hindustantimes.com
What lies ahead now is a challenging path. Human-animal conflicts are inevitable in India due to ever expanding settlements. The best way to tackle them is to educate and sensitize the people towards environment and wildlife, and also how to live along with it. While this looks just concerned with people living in vicinity of the forests, it’s not. It is important we also live responsible lifestyle in urban cities. Our energy needs, needs for other resources like food and water, and where we drain our pollutants, all connects to the issues of rural India and our forests. Indira Gandhi in Stockholm conference 1972 said “Poverty is the worst form of pollution” which conveys why we also need to minimize the economic gaps if we really want to succeed as a sustainable nation saving the habitat of our pride national animal, the Tiger.

What is your effort at personal and community level for conservation of wildlife and biodiversity?

(Written by Gaganpreet Singh, a passionate adventurer and nature lover, working with Microsoft as a Software Engineer. He is also associated with a social initiative 'Joy of Reading' )



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