N. Munal Meitei, Environmentalist
Global Tiger Day is celebrated on 29th July every year since 2010 to protect the natural habitats of tigers, raise public awareness and support for tiger conservation issues and to show our collective support to save for this magnificent but endangered animal. This day is observed with much fervor and enthusiasm to build and develop a stronger bond between human and wildlife. “Doubling tigers is about tigers, about the whole of nature – and it’s also about us” – Marco Lambertini, the Director General WWF said.
The WWF commit to TX2 – ‘Tigers times two’ the global goal to double the number of wild tigers, say 6,000 in 13 tiger range countries by 2022 but could reach 4,500 tigers only as of now. It seems that the whole world has ignored the fact and they even forgot to set the theme for 2022 also.
We must protect tigers from extinction because our planet’s future depends on it. Tiger is a symbol of beauty, bravery, strength, and nationality. So to save the tiger means save the national pride. The beautiful, awe-inspiring tiger is one of the planet’s most iconic animals. Tiger, the royal animal revered in various cultures is also called the ‘Umbrella Species’ and by conserving this majestic species, we also conserve the pristine Eco-system and thousands of other species in the same habitat.
Manipur is at present not included in the global tiger map but not so long back, there were many instances where tigers were found in the state. We have heard of the word ‘Keichanba,’ which itself prove we had abundant tigers. Tigers are incredibly adaptable animals and can survive in extreme temperatures -40°C to +50°C. A tiger’s roar can be heard up to 3 km. Tigers are the largest of all big cats weighing up to 300 kg.
Tigers live in some of the most important but also most highly threatened habitats on the planet, where many of the most exceptional species thrive. Left with just 5% of the range where they used to roam, tigers are losing their homes to deforestation, infrastructure and other anthropogenic factors, forcing them into rapidly diminishing pockets of nature. According to WWF, globally 95% of the tiger population got extinct since the beginning of the 20th century.
As per the latest census reports of 2018-19, India’s tiger population is 2,967 tigers. This is about 70%, the highest number of tigers so far a country has globally. Because of the planned efforts under Project Tiger, India could attain the achievement after the country launched the initiative on 1st April 1973. It has been one of the most successful ventures in recent times to protect the striped predator. The tiger population declined from 3,642 in 1990 to just over 1,411 in 2006. Since then, the government has undertaken several steps to reduce the destruction of the Bengal tiger’s natural habitat in the country. This project had an excellent recovery to increase the tiger population, almost in 53 tiger reserves across 20 Indian states. The Government also launched an anti-poaching force comprising of police, forest officials and other agencies.
The challenges for decline in tiger population are habitat loss – humans have cut down the forest areas for purposes like agricultural land, timber and create enough living spaces leading to a loss of 93% tiger’s natural habitat. Poaching & illegal trade of tigers happen as there is a huge demand for each body parts of tiger from whiskers to its tail. Man animals’ conflict, the climate change–rising sea levels of Sunderbans, etc. are also wiping out the tiger population. None of the tiger conservation landscapes in India within the Bengal’s tiger range are large enough to support an effective population size of 25.
Manipur being in the boarder state with Myanmar is in a strategic route for wildlife crime. Wild life crime is the secondlargest crime after drugs and atop the arms in terms of volume and number in present world. The illicit demand for bones and other body parts of tiger for use in traditional Chinese medicine is another reason for the unrelenting poaching pressure in the country.
The mandate for the project tiger is the hope to conserve tigers in a holistic manner. At present, the dynamics of forest management and wildlife conservation have been distorted due to the need of income, lack of manpower, lack of awareness, lack of land use policy and population pressure. A regional development approach in landscapes having Tiger Reserves is of utmost importance in the country. It should be viewed as a mosaic of different land use patterns, viz, tiger conservation, forestry, sustainable use and development, besides socio-economic growth.
Tiger habitats exist in environments of thousands of indigenous communities which depend on them and the traditional use systems of people in these landscapes are neither static nor benign. Therefore we cannot view these protected areas in isolation from the surrounding socio-economic realities and developmental priorities of the government. This call for a cross-sectorial and cross-disciplinary approach.
Tigers now need a ‘preservationist’ approach. Regional management planning is important all over the country to foster ecological connectivity between protected areas through a restorative input with integrated land use planning. Though, we have the Acts and Rules, unless the acceptance from all sections of the society that our national animal is in a tipping point, we will be too late for tomorrow to save the National Animal, the iconic, royal, majestic and the king of the forests.