It’s official. And it’s alarming. Between 2001 and 2006, we have lost more than one tiger every single day. As compared to 3,642 in 2001, the country’s tiger population, according to a 2006 estimate, stands between 1,300 and 1,500. That’s more than 2,000 tigers up in smoke.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests has told members of the National Wildlife Board, which is headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, that tigers are in grave danger. Especially those outside protected areas. The meeting of the board is slated for the second week of September.
In 2001, there were 2,066 tigers outside reserves and protected areas. The ministry estimates that most of these tigers fell prey to either poaching or man-animal conflict. However, the majority of 1,576 in protected areas, as per the 2001 Census, are safe.
Different methods were adopted for the two censuses. While the 2006 estimate was based on data collected by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) through camera traps, DNA-testing and satellite-mapping, the 2001 survey tracked pugmarks. “These are preliminary estimates. Final figures will be known by December,” said Rajesh Gopal, member secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority.
Valmik Thapar, a tiger conservationist and a member of the board, says, “About 90-95 per cent of tigers outside the protected areas have been wiped out. It shows that tigers cannot survive in conflict with humans.”
The Prime Minister on Friday asked state governments to create a development agency for each tiger reserve to increase local participation in conservation. “Wherever the local population has come into the picture, the tigers are safer,” Gopal said, citing Madhya Pradesh where ex-servicemen have been roped in to protect the big cats.