Monday, July 29, 2019

Status Report 2018: Increasing Tiger Population in India

Count - 2018 Year--- 2967 Tigers

After a grind of many years India finally experiences meaningful increase in its tiger population. This is heartening after a dismal status that could have been well below fourteen hundred at the start of Project Tiger Program in the seventies. The report is credible since more scientific approach has been resorted to using diverse techniques including the camera traps.

A larger area has been brought under the scanner unearthing small unheard populations of the carnivore. The major benefit of this exercise of counting tigers is unfolding of challenges in various or diverse landscapes. People conservation efforts which come naturally due to traditional beliefs, myths and ethos come to light thus converging pool of conservation practises along with emerging scientific management principles. This ends up enhancing conservation logic and create consensus that helps put it in practice  to save the tiger more effectively.  

Another factor that lends credibility to the report is lack of fudging that went on in the past with some FD exiting the management with a figure that was higher than before. This was farcical, and the population of the big cat in India was zooming well beyond its carrying capacity. This also showed the prerogative of the higher ups and how easy was it to fudge.

Like the balloon that bursts whence a small pin pricks, the truth came tumbling down after the debacle at Sariska and Panna National Parks two of the most prestigious tiger conservation units in India. 

From thirty plus tigers within a short period there were no tigers at all...all had been poached with extreme ease and comfort and that too with the connivance of some forest officials as the news papers reported. To counter the blame.. committees and inquiry commission all were setup more to whitewash  the shameful than to find the truth. In our country all horrific events eventually die down to be forgotten or to be sunk in ever delaying legal procedures and hordes of paper.  

Thankfully these events did not die down completely for it was the survival of one of the most charismatic species at stake, and India was at the forefront. But the most empowering factor was that India's prestige was at stake..the National Pride. The whole World looks at us as to what we are doing with our tigers.  

A comprehensive conservation model, ever evolving was needed in the country and thanks to concern and dedication we have been successful to a great extent in the cause. 

The debacle that happened at Sariska and Panna made it evident that India at that stage was ill prepared to save the vanishing species ...the critically endangered tiger. 

The initiation of Project Tiger following the Wildlife Protection Act and the creation of Protected Areas with inviolate core lulled the management with complacency bolstered beyond reasoning by yearly fudging thus falsely increasing tiger numbers albeit only on paper year by year. 

Lets be honest fudging did not take place everywhere, the bloated figures were also due to age old methodology of counting the big cats. Many tiger reserve were in a nascent stage at that time and the conservation efforts then were lacking perhaps due to inexperience or lack of funds.        

Lets us say that tiger conservation in those days was in infancy which was very true for the predator needed macro solutions and not much biological insights for its survival but the answers or solutions were not there at that time and if they did unfold the process was painstakingly slow. 

In the midst of the conservation efforts were some of our finest wildlife managers, and the dedicated staff in the reserves. International assistance also aided the conservation efforts. Institutes like WWF for Nature, WWI Dehradun and plethora of National and local conservation bodies now play an immense role in saving this beleaguered species.    

Space is a constraining factor with human population bursting beyond the seam and dire economic challenge, an increasing tiger population is not an assurance of the animals survival a Damocles Sword will always hang on the predators head. 

Numbers though comforting and the increase much needed, survival of the tiger would always depend upon many factors and those constantly emerging...political will and conservation efforts being of utmost importance. 

Population dynamics in relation to the environment, humans and our attitude and policies will always be in state of flux with population increase. The changing landscape and the encompassing environment will throw many new challenges and problems for saving the big cat. Are we prepared and well focused?  Are we proactive enough?     

All that we do as a Nation, as a society and even as individuals will have an impact on the survival quotient of the tiger.      

Tiger Status Report 2018

Uday works as a naturalist in India and writes on tigers and their conservation.