The national animal of our country is at a threat from extinction as its number has reduced drastically in the last decade. Mr MKS Paksha, TRAFFIC, has said at least 43 tigers were killed annually in the 2001-2010 decade. The population of the animal has decreased from 3,642 to 1,411, which is about 50%. This has happened due to rampant poaching and infirm action of governmet to address the issue immediately.
Severe poaching has been a threat to the animal. There has been increasing death tolls of tigers year by year with 52 deaths in 2010, 56 in 2011 and 48 till June of this year, which is a very high number. In May, four traps were found by forest staff during combing operations and a trail led to the arrest of three suspected poachers. The hot spots of tiger poaching have been in Tadoba and Palamau. 7 tigers found dead this year around Tadoba tiger reserve. Out of 7 in 2010, 4 were victims to poaching and 1 out of 5 were so last year in the same area. During January-May of this year, 3 deaths of tigers have been found in Chandrapur. A tiger body found with paws cut off, another dead in a trap and 10 body parts of the last one were found.
The tigers are hunted for the value of its body parts in the market and this happens despite their protected status and the creation of tiger reserves. “Shoot at Sight Order” has been passed to prevent poaching but it is ineffective as the forest guards can only shoot in self-defence after enough warnings. In an effort to avoid this, Special Tiger Protection Force has been created. An amount of Rs.200 crore from annual budget has been allocated for tiger protection which includes sophisticated Electronic eye surveillance with thermal imaging camera on towers has been installed in a part of Corbett National Park.
Natural disasters are also a reason for tiger deaths. Four tiger cubs were burnt to ashes in fire in the Terai Forest Range in May 2010.
Inadequacy of inviolate spaces for tigers has also been a reason for these deaths. Out of 41 reserves in 17 states, 25 reserves are notified buffer zones. Only 105 villages have been relocated out 760 villages constituting 48,500 families. In 2010 a man-eater was killed by the policeman with an AK-47 as it had been attacking and killing the residents of Sunderkhal village. Tiger Task Force has stated that 37,000 sq. km in tiger reserves as potential inviolate spaces but says it should be more than this.
The population census taken by the government is under blame as it uses pug marks to determine the number. The tigers are at higher danger when they are outside the protected areas. An additional is the unknown number of tigers outside the reserve. Corbett National Park has 214 tigers in it and has 42 outside it. The four reserves Tadoba, Pench, Melghat, and Sahyadri in Maharashtra have 169 tigers as per census but it could be higher. Also the number of tigers is said to be 40 in Tadoba but the actual number maybe 90-100. The Tiger Task Force has disparaged pugmark census and has recommended using sophisticated counting mechanism such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS), camera traps and DNA sampling.
As per Tiger Task Force, money raising from end users of forest and wildlife like irrigation, mining, dams and tourism to pay more for tiger conservation. It states that the money generated from this can be used to relocate villages so as to provide larger inviolate spaces to the animal.
The declining number of tigers has declined largely now as compared to the population in 2001-2002.
Madhya Pradesh has shown a huge decline from 710 to 255 and Sariska with none. Only Tamil Nadu has shown relief with 20% increase in population.
Only with government’s sincere efforts it is possible to protect the animal. People too should act responsibly by not perceiving tigers as enemies and should act as protectors. Strict laws should be enacted and should be in action to punish poachers. If not now then it would be never that the national animal will be with us. We should join hands to protect our national pride.
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