With its tiger population dropping at an alarming rate, India plans to breed the big cats in special farms. The idea is to replicate China’s successful model of tiger farms, which has seen the country go from less than 50 tigers in the wild to about 5,000 in these farms.
Environment and Forest secretary Dr Prodipto Ghosh told reporters on Monday that the government is considering allowing tiger farms in India.
“They can be in zoos or forest areas but not in tiger reserves,” he said. The proposal is in its initial stage.
The Central Zoo Authority has allowed breeding centres for several endangered species like vultures but no such attempt has been made for tigers.
But there are some sceptics. Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India says: “India will make a fool of itself if it promotes tiger farming. To raise a tiger in a farm costs $10,000 and to kill one in the wild only costs Rs 40. Instead, the government should work to provide food and protect tigers.”
The announcement comes days after the Wildlife Institute of India revealed the tiger count in central India had declined by about 60 per cent since 2002. As compared to 1,233 tigers in 2002, the institute estimates the number to be 490.
Ghosh said the that ministry accepted the institute’s findings as the new methodology was accurate.
“Earlier, tigers were identified only on the basis of pugmarks. The new methodology uses camera traps, sightings, pugmarks and genetic tests among others,” he said.
The secretary also raised the issue of Gujarat not allowing the rehabilitation of Gir Wildlife Sanctuary’s Asiatic lions at the Palampur Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. “The lion is the pride of India and not only of Gujarat,” he said.
China allows tiger farming by wildlife sanctuaries and private entrepreneurs. But a recent International Fund for Animal Welfare report stated that tiger body parts from these farms were being sold to wine distilleries and restaurants that serve tiger delicacies.