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Tiger numbers rise but threat to the big cat remains

By Deepika

About eight years ago in 2010, a little face of Stripey, the tiger cub in Aircel's famous ad campaign "Save Our Tigers" became famous and drew the country together to save the animals. Back then, information flashed across the TV screens that said, "Just 1411 left".

Representational Image

The problems seems to be averted now as concentrated efforts of independent activists, government policies, amendments to the Wild Life Protection Act, and rising awareness have helped push the number of the wild cats to 2,226 in 2014, when the last tiger census was held.

Fight for conservation

India has one of the lowest per capita forest areas in the world. Forests as carbon sinks are deemed to be a major mean of controlling climate change. Depletion of forests is responsible for reduction of tiger habitats. As forestlands fall to development projects, habitable land for animals that make for the tiger's food base are also reduced.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has launched the M-STrIPES (Monitoring System for Tigers - Intensive Protection and Ecological Status), a mobile monitoring system for forest guards. Earlier this year, NTCA and WII kicked off tiger census 2018 with better technology and more cameras. Considering the trend of the last 10 years, it is expected that the report, likely to be released in 2019, will show a rise in numbers.

Crisis averted

India can take solace in the fact that it remains the nation with largest tiger population. While the number is something to be proud of, experts believe issues such as poaching, receding forest areas and development projects infringing on tiger habitat need to be tackled.

If not, we are looking at a bleak future for India's national animal. Leading wildlife conservationist Prerna Singh Bindra cites several infrastructure projects that will cut through tiger corridors and habitats to stress that the future of the big cat is uncertain if we continue to violate their habitat.

Unless tigers have inviolate habitats where they can breed and flourish and there are corridors linking these breeding populations, we are isolating tigers in very small reserves which is fatal in the long run," Bindra told PTI.

Threat remains

Tiger deaths are continuing to disturb both the tiger lovers and policy planners in India. As per the records of the Tigernet, collaboration among national Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the wildlife NGO, TRAFFIC, as many as 76 tigers were killed in the country during 2016.

In the previous year the number of casualties was 69. Madhya Pradesh accounted for one third of the deaths while Karnataka, with the largest tiger population in the country, recorded 13 tiger deaths. A large number of deaths were due to direct or indirect human intervention. Poaching was found to be a major threat.

OneIndia News (with PTI inputs)

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