50 years of Project Tiger: PM set to release new census on April 9 | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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50 years of Project Tiger: PM set to release new census on April 9

ByJayashree Nandi
Mar 27, 2023 08:59 AM IST

The commemoration event will take place in Mysuru next month and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will release the latest tiger population numbers, officials said on Friday.

To mark 50 years of Project Tiger, India’s flagship project to conserve and increase its tiger population, the environment ministry will soon announce tiger estimation numbers for 2022, release a commemorative coin of 50, and put out a document on evaluating effective management of tiger reserves and a vision document for tiger conservation.

Project Tiger was conceived and launched by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1973. The project was launched on April 1 at Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand
Project Tiger was conceived and launched by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1973. The project was launched on April 1 at Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand

The commemoration event will take place in Mysuru next month and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will release the latest tiger population numbers, officials said on Friday.

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“We are organising a mega international event on April 9, 10 and 11. We will be declaring the 2022 tiger estimation report at this event. We are the only country that has conducted periodic assessments of tiger reserves which will also be released,” said SP Yadav, head of Project Tiger. “We are also coming out with a commemorative coin of 50 on completion of 50 years of Project Tiger. For the event, we are also inviting all tiger range country ministers to participate on this historic occasion. All the important national and international NGOs and scientists will also participate.”

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Project Tiger was conceived and launched by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1973. The project was launched on April 1 at Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand. In a message, Gandhi had written that Project Tiger “is a comment on our long neglect of the environment as well as …most welcome concern for saving one of nature’s most magnificent endowments,” as documented in the book “Indira Gandhi, a Life in Nature”.

The area covered by the project has grown manifold since its launch. The initial coverage included nine tiger reserves spread over 18,278 sq km. Today, there are 53 tiger reserves over more than 75,000 sq km, or approximately 2.4% of the country’s geographical area, of tiger habitats under the project.

“These tiger reserves are repositories for biodiversity conservation in the country ensuring regional water security and carbon sequestration thereby contributing in accomplishing India’s climate change mitigation targets,” the environment ministry said in a note on Friday.

India harbours more than 70% of the global wild tiger population, which is increasing at an annual rate of 6%. India doubled the wild tiger population in about 12 years, and much before the targeted year of 2022 as per the international St. Petersburg Declaration. In 2008, there were 1,411 tigers, which increased to 2,967 in 2018, according to the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

“One of the main criteria for the project was whether under its umbrella we could save other critically endangered species,” said environmentalist M K Ranjitsinh, a former bureaucrat and one of the main architects of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. “The tiger we used as the flagship species and hoped under the ramifications of Project Tiger, we would save diverse habitats and other endangered species.”

"It was not a blind approach, but to use the tiger to save something more valuable — its habitat. I don’t judge Project Tiger by only their numbers. I think that has caused certain deficiencies. Every field director regards tiger numbers as a matter of survival… Tiger is not the ‘be all and end all’ of the project but definitely the frontrunner. It’s a failure that people go to reserves only to look at tigers and several vehicles shoot past you to see the animal. This was not the vision,” added Ranjitsinh.

“Tigers are majestic and charismatic carnivores. Besides, around 70% of the world’s tigers live in India. It is hence India’s responsibility to the world to conserve them,” said Uma Ramakrishnan is an Indian molecular ecologist and professor at National Centre for Biological Sciences. ”The future of tiger populations will depend not only on increasing numbers, but on maintaining connectivity, managing negative interactions between tigers and people, and on better understanding the effects of inbreeding on future generations of tigers,”

Last year, India entered with an agreement with Cambodia to translocate a few tigers to that country. “Giving tigers to Cambodia is under consideration. Our delegation has visited and their officials have also visited,” Yadav said. “We must find the cause of tiger decimation there and we must ensure that all the factors for disappearance of tigers are taken care of like prey base, poaching and patrolling.” The last tiger in Cambodia was caught on camera in 2009, he added.

Yadav acknowledged that many tiger reserves have a problem of plenty, which include Corbett, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench and Tadoba. “There should be active management in these reserves. For example, in Uttarakhand we are bringing tigers from the Corbett sanctuary and introducing them to the Rajaji Tiger Reserve,” he said. “We are working on ways to manage. We cannot put a cap on tiger numbers as it’s a dynamic process.”

To commemorate the completion of 30 years of Project Elephant in 2022 and to give a further impetus to conservation efforts, the environment ministry will celebrate Gaj Utsav 2023 at Kaziranga National Park on April 7 and 8. It will be inaugurated by President Droupadi Murmu.

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