Still efforts are continuously made to preserve these magnificent predators from extinction.
Project Tiger is the most famous wildlife conservation project of India, which was lunched in 1972 to protect the diminishing population of Indian tigers. As recently as 1970, the hunting of tigers was legal in India and this majestic animal was hunted by the erstwhile royals and elites for pleasure and its beautiful skin. According to various estimates, during the 1950s and early 1960s, over 3,000 tigers lost their lives to trophy hunters. In the beginning of the 1970s, the tiger population in India was estimated to be around 1,800, shocking and jolting the concerned authorities to formulate an immediate plan to save Indian tigers and the result was the launch of Project Tiger in 1972.
India is home to the largest number of wild tigers in the world and shelters approximately 60% of the world's wild tiger population. Initially 9 Tiger reserves covering an area of 16,339 sq km were chosen for Project Tiger. Corbett National Park was the first national park of India to be covered under Project Tiger on April 1st, 1973. Now as many as 27 Tiger Reserves, covering an area of37,761 sq km, are included in Project Tiger.
The main aim of Project Tiger was to create a safe haven and ideal environmental conditions for the survival and growth of tigers and its prey to ensure maintenance of a viable population of this wonderful animal in the country. From its inception in 1972, Project Tiger was aimed at saving the tiger and to identify and eliminate the factors responsible for the decline of tiger population in the country. The factors recognized by Project Tiger included habitat destruction, forestry disturbance, loss of prey, poaching and competition with local villagers and domestic animals.
The Project tiger was launched in India in 1972 as conservation programme for saving the Indian Tiger Population. Some of the best examples of this programmes success can be seen in the national parks situated in the high Himalayan region, to the mangrove swamps of the Sundarbans and the thorny scrubs of Rajasthan. But more wildlife conservation laws and awareness among people is still required to make Indian sanctuaries a safe haven for tigers.
Project Tiger Scheme
Project Tiger Scheme has been under implementation since 1973 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Government of India.
The aim of Project Tiger is to ensure a viable population of tiger in India for economic, aesthetic, cultural and ecological values and to preserve areas of biological importance as natural heritage. Project tiger scheme includes wildlife management, protection measures and site specific eco development to reduce the dependency on tiger reserve resources.
At the turn of the century, the estimated tiger population in India was placed at 40,000 but the first ever all India tiger census in 1972 shockingly revealed the existence of only 1827 tigers. Before that a ban on tiger hunting was imposed in the year 1970 and in 1972 the Wildlife Protection Act came into force. Thereafter a 'Task Force' was set up to formulate a project for tiger conservation.
With the launch of Project tiger in 1973, various tiger reserves were created in different parts of the country on a 'core-buffer' strategy. Under this strategy, the core areas were freed from all human activities and the buffer areas were to have 'conservation oriented land use'. Initially, 9 tiger reserves were established in different States during the period 1973-74. These nine Tiger reserves were Manas (Assam), Palamau (Bihar), Similipal (Orissa), Corbett (U.P.), Kanha (M.P.), Melghat (Maharashtra), Bandipur (Karnataka), Ranthambore (Rajasthan) and Sunderbans (West Bengal).
The main achievements of this project are excellent recovery of the habitat and consequent increase in the tiger population in the reserve areas, from a mere 268 in 9 reserves in 1972 to 1576 in 27 reserves in 2003.
The main objective of Project Tiger is to ensure a viable population of tiger in India for scientific , economic , aesthetic , cultural and ecological values and to preserve for all time, areas of biological importance as a natural heritage for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people. Main objectives under the scheme include wildlife management, protection measures and site specific ecodevelopment to reduce the dependency of local communities on tiger reserve resources.
Initially, the Project started with 9 tiger reserves, covering an area of 16,339 sq.km., with a population of 268 tigers. At present there are 27 tiger reserves covering an area of 37761 sq.km., with a population of 1498 tigers. This amounts to almost 1.14% of the total geographical area of the country. The selection of reserves was guided by representation of ecotypical wilderness areas across the biogeographic range of tiger distribution in the country. Project Tiger is undisputedly a custodian of major gene pool. It is also a repository of some of the most valuable ecosystem and habitats for wildlife.
Tiger Reserves are constituted on a 'core-buffer' strategy. The core area is kept free of biotic disturbances and forestry operations, where collection of minor forest produce, grazing, human disturbances are not allowed within. However, the buffer zone is managed as a ‘multiple use area’ with twin objectives of providing habitat supplement to the spill over population of wild animals from the core conservation unit, and to provide site specific ecodevelopmental inputs to surrounding villages for relieving their impact on the core. Except for the National Parks portion if contained within, normally no relocation of villages is visualised in the buffer area, and forestry operations, NTFP collection and other rights and concessions to the local people are permitted in a regulated manner to complement the initiatives in the core unit.
Project Tiger has put the tiger on an assured course of recovery from the brink of extinction, and has resurrected the floral and faunal genetic diversity in some of our unique and endangered wilderness ecosystem. The population of tigers in the country has increased significantly to about 4000 from less than 2000 at the time of launch of the project.
The effective protection and concerted conservation measures inside the reserves have brought about considerable intangible achievements also, viz. arresting erosion, enrichment of water regime thereby improving the water table and overall habitat resurrection. Labour intensive activities in tiger reserves have helped in poverty alleviation amongst the most backward sections, and their dependence on forests has also reduced. The project has been instrumental in mustering local support for conservation programme in general.
* Elimination of all forms of human exploitation and disturbance from the core and rationalisation of such activities in the buffer.
* Limitation of the habitat management to repair damage done by man.
* Researching facts about habitat and wild animals and carefully monitoring changes in flora and fauna.
List of Tiger Reserves in India
Pench (Madhya Pradesh)
Project Tiger is a tiger conservation programme launched on 1 April 1973 by the Government of India during Prime MinisterIndira Gandhi's tenure. The project aims at ensuring a viable population of Bengal tigers in their natural habitats and also to protect them from extinction, and preserving areas of biological importance as a natural heritage forever represented as close as possible the diversity of ecosystems across the tiger's distribution in the country. The project's task force visualized these tiger reserves as breeding nuclei, from which surplus animals would migrate to adjacent forests. The Funds and commitment were mastered to support the intensive program of habitat protection and rehabilitation under the project. The government has set up a Tiger Protection Force to combat poachers and funded relocation of villagers to minimize human-tiger conflicts.
During the tiger census of 2006, a new methodology was used extrapolating site-specific densities of tigers, their co-predators and prey derived from camera trap and sign surveys using GIS. Based on the result of these surveys, the total tiger population has been estimated at 1,411 individuals ranging from 1,165 to 1,657 adult and sub-adult tigers of more than 1.5 years of age. Owing to the project, the number of tigers has improved to 2,226 as per the latest census report released on 20 January 2015.
Project tiger's main aim was to:
- Limit factors that leads to reduction of tiger habitats and to mitigate them by suitable management. The damages done to the habitat were to be rectified so as to facilitate the recovery of the ecosystem to the maximum possible extent.
- To ensure a viable population of tigers for economic, scientific, cultural, aesthetic and ecological values.
The Indian tiger population at the turn of the 20th century was estimated at 20,000 to 40,000 individuals. The first country-wide tiger census conducted in 1972 estimated the population to comprise a little more than 1,800 individuals, a reduction in tiger population.
In 1973, the project was launched in the Corbett National Park of Uttarakhand.
Project Tiger is administered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority. The overall administration of the project is monitored by a steering committee headed by a director. A field director is appointed for each reserve, who is assisted by a group of field and technical personnel.
- Shivalik-terai conservation unit
- North-East conservation unit
- Sunderbans conservation unit
- Western ghats conservation unit
- Eastern ghats conservation unit
- Central India conservation unit
- Sariska conservation unit
- Kaziranga Conservation Unit
The various tiger reserves were created in the country based on 'core-buffer' strategy:
1.Core area: The core areas are freed of all human activities.It has the legal status of a national park or wildlife sanctuary.It is kept free of biotic disturbances and forestry operations like collection of minor forest produce,grazing,and other human disturbances are not allowed within.
2.Buffer areas:The buffer areas are subjected to 'conservation-oriented land use'. It comprises forest and non-forest land.It is a multi-purpose use area with twin objectives of providing habitat supplement to spillover population of wild animals from core conservation unit and to provide site specific co-developmental inputs to surrounding villages for relieving their impact on core area. For each tiger reserve, management plans were drawn up based on the following principles:
- Elimination of all forms of human exploitation and biotic disturbance from the core area and rationalization of activities in the buffer zone
- Restricting the habitat management only to repair the damages done to the ecosystem by human and other interferences so as to facilitate recovery of the ecosystem to its natural state
- Monitoring the faunal and floral changes over time and carrying out research about wildlife
By the late 1980s, the initial nine reserves covering an area of 9,115 square kilometers (3,519 square miles) had been increased to 15 reserves covering an area of 24,700 km2 (9,500 sq mi). More than 1100 tigers were estimated to inhabit the reserves by 1984. By 1997, 23 tiger reserves encompassed an area of 33,000 km2 (13,000 sq mi), but the fate of tiger habitat outside the reserves was precarious, due to pressure on habitat, incessant poaching and large-scale development projects such as dams, industry and mines.
Wireless communication systems and outstation patrol camps have been developed within the tiger reserves, due to which poaching has declined considerably. Fire protection is effectively done by suitable preventive and control measures. Voluntary Village relocation has been done in many reserves, especially from the core, area. Live stock grazing has been controlled to a great extent in the tiger reserves. Various compensatory developmental works have improved the water regime and the ground and field level vegetation, thereby increasing the animal density. Research data pertaining to vegetation changes are also available from many reserves. Future plans include use of advanced information and communication technology in wildlife protection and crime management in tiger reserves, GIS based digitized database development and devising a new tiger habitat and population evaluation system.
Controversies and problems
Project Tiger's efforts were hampered by poaching, as well as debacles and irregularities in Sariska and Namdapha, both of which were reported extensively in the Indian media. The Forest Rights Act passed by the Indian government in 2006 recognizes the rights of some forest dwelling communities in forest areas. This has led to controversy over implications of such recognition for tiger conservation. Some have argued that this is problematic as it will increase conflict and opportunities for poaching; some also assert that "tigers and humans cannot co-exist". Others argue that this is a limited perspective that overlooks the reality of human-tiger coexistence and the role of abuse of power by authorities, rather than local people, in the tiger crisis. This position was supported by the Government of India's Tiger Task Force, and is also taken by some forest dwellers' organizations.
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- ^Jhala, Y. V., Gopal, R., Qureshi, Q. (eds.) (2008). Status of the Tigers, Co-predators, and Prey in India(PDF). TR 08/001. National Tiger Conservation Authority, Govt. of India, New Delhi; Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. Archived from the original(PDF) on 2 June 2013.
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- ^Thapar, V. (1999). The tragedy of the Indian tiger: starting from scratch. In: Seidensticker, J., Christie, S., Jackson, P. (eds.) Riding the Tiger. Tiger Conservation in human-dominated landscapes. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. hardback ISBN 0-521-64057-1, paperback ISBN 0-521-64835-1. pp. 296–306.
- ^Buncombe, A. (31 October 2007) The face of a doomed species. The Independent
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