The charismatic, beautiful and ferocious wild animal- tiger is our national pride. Tiger is the symbol of strength and speed. It is representative of India’s wealth of wildlife. The combination of grace, agility, strength and enormous power has earned the tiger its place of pride as the national animal of India.
Less than 100 years ago, tigers prowled across India in large numbers. Tigers need large territories and the growing human population particularly since 1940’s have resulted in large scale habitat destruction and decimation of prey populations. The reason behind habitat destruction being clearing of forests to make land available for agriculture, road networks and hydel projects. Tigers have been hunted for making decorative items from their skin like wall and floor covering, souvenirs and for use in traditional Asian medicines. In the early 1990’s trade in tiger bone for traditional Chinese medicines threatened to drive tigers to its extinction.
Today the tiger population stands at just 1701. Tiger is not just another wild animal because it plays a pivotal role in maintaining the health and diversity of the ecosystem. It is the top predator at the apex of food chain and keeps the population of wild ungulates like deer and antelopes in check thereby maintaining a balance between the herbivorous prey and the vegetation upon which they feed. The tiger’s presence is therefore the indicator of well being in the ecosystem. Its extinction is an indication of the fact that the ecosystem is not sufficiently protected and neither would it exist for long. Hence tiger’s extinction would lead to the collapse of the entire ecosystem. Therefore saving this beautiful animal would also help in saving our ecosystem which is the source of ecological services like clean air, water, temperature regulation etc.
The Government of India started ‘Project Tiger’ in 1972 which is a conservation project to protect the diminishing population of Indian tigers. Its aim is to create safe haven and ideal environmental conditions for the survival and growth of tigers and its prey to ensure the maintenance of a viable population of this animal. It is certainly a step in the right direction but it is not just the government’s responsibility to save our national animal. We as conscious citizens of India should also take initiative and participate in this mission to help in the life saving activities by the government.