Posted by: Gomzy | March 10, 2008

Tiger: Big Cat’s Days are Numbered

Lion was the National Animal of India till it got independence, since it was part of the Royal Coat of arms for England. That’s why it can still be found on the Reserve Bank of India’s Logo which was incorporated in pre-independent India. After independence of India the new National Animal was Tiger. The logic behind the change was, Lions were only found in some parts of India like Gujarat while Tiger was found in many states.

Tiger is the means of transport for goddess Durga as well as Lord Ayyappa. Whereas Lord Shiva can be seen wearing cloths made of Tiger skin presumably to suggest that he is beyond ne mortal world. Tiger is revered in the Chinese and Tibetan civilizations.

They say cat has Nine lives, but when it comes to Tiger the Big Cat of India, even the single life is not guaranteed.

National Animal of 5 different countries apart from India, Tiger population has come dwindled from nearly 100 thousand (nearly 40K in India) early in the 20th century to just about 5 – 7 thousand in wild currently. Half of the wild tiger population was estimated to be in India. However per the latest Tiger Census recently released by the National Tiger Conservation Authority put the Tiger number at 1,411 down from 3,642 per the 2002 survey. As per WPSI ‘s tiger poaching statistics 832 tigers have been killed since 1944 to 2007 in India.

The main reason for the decline is the $12 billion illegal wildlife products industry. China, Japan and other South East Asian counties keep demanding Tiger products at any cost and India is the largest contributor to the trade. In the international markets Tiger can fetch upto $50,000, the skin alone fetches nearly $15,000 while the bones cost nearly $4000 per kilogram – while the investment in the poaching each tiger is about Rs. 1 Lakh.

Another reason is the never ending encroachment of humans into the Tiger habitat. Take for example the latest news of a Tigress straying into a village in Sunderbans on Feb 18. Thousands of villagers chased her almost killing her.

Government of India had initiated the Project Tiger in 1973 with the main objective of ensuring viable population of Tigers in India. In 2006 Project Tiger was replaced with National Tiger Conservation Authority .Currently the program is spread over 27 Tiger Reserves covering an area of 37761 sq. Km. The tiger population under the Project Tiger shows that Tiger population has increase from 1638 in 1972 to 3773 in 2002. However the latest census indicating the rapid decline in the Tiger population compared to the previous census suggests some kind of artificial inflation of the numbers earlier.

Government of India has enacted the “Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972” with the object of poaching and illegal trade in wildlife in India. As per the Act offences pertaining to hunting of endangered species like Tigers is liable for imprisonment of 3-7 years and fine upto Rs. 10-25K. Since Inception however only 16 persons have been convicted of killing tiger.

References:
Project Tiger
Wildlife Protection Society of India
Wikipedia
Big Cat Rescue

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