|Big Cats Disappear
Tiger numbers sink further because of habitat loss and poaching
Times of India, Editorial, 14 Feb 2008, 0055 hrs IST
Hounded out of home and hearth by developers, attacked by poachers and
harvested for its body parts, India's national animal is reduced to a
fugitive status. The magnificent cat has almost nowhere to run or hide.
Only 6,000 tigers remain in natural habitats worldwide, compared to
1,00,000 just a century ago, says a UN report on endangered species.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority's report released on Tuesday
says that only 1,411 tigers remain in the wild in India, compared to
3,642 estimated in the 2002 report that is being disputed. The first
1960 tiger census in India estimated tiger population at 1,800. The
Forest Survey of India's report, also released on Tuesday, reveals a
loss of forest cover of about 728 sq km in just two years, between 2003
and 2005. Forests, the report says, cover 20.6 per cent of India's
geographical area of which only 1.7 per cent is what is called "very
dense forest". In fact, a liberal definition of what is a forest helps
dress up statistics.
Tiger habitats in India include dry, deciduous jungles like those in
Sariska, moist evergreen forests like in Corbett and Bandhavgarh, and
tidal or mangrove forests or the Sunderbans wetlands. While Sariska has
no tigers any more, Corbett in Uttarakhand and Bandhavgarh in Madhya
Pradesh are among the tiger-friendly sanctuaries listed currently. The
Sunderbans census is incomplete. Meanwhile, forests being cut down for
industry, logging and human settlements as well as wetlands exploited
for water are reducing tiger and other wildlife habitat which are
crucial for thriving ecosystems.
Most daunting, however, is the proliferation of organised poaching
often conducted from urban centres from where the lucrative business of
trading internationally in wildlife products is conducted. The Wildlife
Protection Society of India has helped track down several racketeers
caught with stocks of tiger parts. India has ratified the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Globally, the illegal trade in wildlife and its products sourced
mostly from Asia and mainly from India and China is worth Rs 40
crore per annum. Demand from China and parts of South East Asia for
tiger organs keeps trade in dead tigers flourishing.
We need to prevent wildlife crime from occurring in the first place.
Hunt the hunters. Equip forest officers with weapons and know-how to
apprehend poachers. Reward informants handsomely so that it is more
lucrative than poaching tigers or trading in their skin and organs. But
consumers must first reject wildlife products to force the
international market to shrink.
Status of Tiger in India 2008 :