Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] How the Tiger can regain its stripes?

Tiger conservation in India needs a reboot to match the scale of the nation’s aspirations in other domains.
By IASToppers
August 13, 2020

Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Tiger Census 2018
  • Tiger Conservation in India
  • Concerns
  • Way Forward
  • Conclusion

How the Tiger can regain its stripes?

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Introduction:

On International Tiger Day, July 29, India celebrated the increase in tigers from about 2,000 in 1970 to about 3,000 now. This is a result of over 50 years of incredible efforts but the annual growth rate has been lower than 1%. India has done better than other tiger range countries, but at what cost and what efficiency needs deeper scrutiny.

Tiger Census 2018:

  • National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) conducts a tiger census across India after every 4 years.
  • The last tiger census report (2018) was released in July 2019.
  • As per the report, the number of tigers in India at 2,967.
  • The numbers increased by one-third as compared to tigers reported in 2014.
  • Madhya Pradesh with 526 has the highest number of tigers in India.

Tiger Conservation in India:

1. Wildlife Acts:

  • Two legal instruments that enabled tiger recoveries in India were the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980, which reinforced Project Tiger.
  • Tiger is listed under the schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 which provides absolute protection and offencesunder these are prescribed the highest penalties.
  • Tiger is listed as an endangered animal in the IUCN red data list.

2. Project Tiger:

  • The Project Tiger was launched with nine reserves in 1973-1974 aimed at the conservation of our national animal.
  • It was first started as a Central scheme. Later, it was transformed into a Centrally Sponsored Scheme, whereby centre and states shared equal expenditures.

3. National Tiger Conservation Authority:

  • NTCA is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change constituted under enabling provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • NTCA was established in 2005 following a recommendation of the Tiger Task Force for reorganized management of Project Tiger and the Tiger Reserves of India.

4. Tiger Reserves:

  • India currently has 50 Tiger Reserves spread out in 18 tiger range states, with an area of about 73,000 sq. km.
  • The tiger reserves are constituted on a core/buffer strategy.
  • The core areas enjoy the legal status of a national park or a sanctuary, whereas the buffer or peripheral areas are a mix of forest and non-forest land, managed as a multiple-use area.
  • With tigers coming out of Reserves and covering long distances, more areas in the country are needed to be declared as Tiger Reserves.

Concerns:

  • Even a rough calculation shows that India has the potential to hold 10,000 to 15,000 wild tigers.
  • But the country is lacking a pragmatic plan to get to that goal.
  • Since the last two decades, there has been a gradual transition of the field-oriented Forest Department to one with multiple bureaucratic layers.
  • It was followed by unnecessary and massive borrowings from the Global Environment Facility-World Bank combine to create new models for tiger recovery.
  • The present tiger management model including raped tapism has benefited the forest bureaucracy more than it did the tigers.
  • Excessive funding of a few reserves while neglecting large areas with greater recovery potential became the norm.
  • Progress on voluntary village relocation schemes from within reserves slowed down.
  • There has been a government monopoly over tiger management with lack of data transparency and rigorous, independent tiger monitoring.

Way Forward:

  • India needs to evolve out its own Tiger Conservation model which suits its diverse terrain and climatic conditions.
  • The role of the forest bureaucracy should be once again restricted to wildlife law enforcement.
  • Project Tiger can be merged with other Central schemes for wildlife conservation.
  • Government monopoly over domains of tiger conservation such as tiger research, monitoring, nature education, tourism and possibly even conflict mitigation should be diminished.
  • The conservation plans must engage inputs by involving private enterprises, local communities, NGOs and scientific institutions.
  • The red tape and bureaucratic bottlenecks must be removed to see effective implementation of the conservation schemes and efforts.
  • India needs wildlife surveillance, good management of Tiger Reserves, strict poaching laws, awareness and education programmes on tiger conservation.

Conclusion:

India’s tiger conservation needs a reboot to match the scale of the country’s aspirations in other domains. India needs a new vision that actively envisages saving tigers without the pressure to fare well in the tiger census but displays a genuine concern for the conservation of our National animal.

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