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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.

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Status of Tiger in India 2008 : 
http://projecttiger.nic.in/whtsnew/status_of_tigers_in_india_2008.pdf






 

 

 

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