Tiger, the national animal of India, has been the subject of a concerted and massive effort to conserve the species and its habitat. With qualified success.
With their distinctive yellow coat with iconic black stripes, Tigers have long captured the fascination of writers and poets alike all over the world. But the same beauty has been its bane for these large cats. About 97% of the wild tiger population has perished in the last millennium and only 6 Subspecies of these royal cats are left on our planet in current times.
Chief among them are Bengal tiger, Amur tiger, South China tiger, Sumatran tiger , Indochinese tiger and Malayan tiger. According to the research papers published in a science journal Current Biology, the Caspian, Javan and Bali tigers have already gone extinct.
After years of declining numbers, the tiger population has recently increased for the first time in over 100 years. Today, 3,890 tigers roam freely which is due in large to the conservation efforts taking place throughout India, Russia, and Nepal. Around 2,000 live in India. So the need to conserve the species like the Bengal Tigers who live in the most populous area of the Earth, now has some help. An initiative by the wildlife charity Born Free is focusing on helping humans and tigers to exist alongside one another. Called Living with Tigers, the project aims to recruit help from the villages bordering the great tiger reserves of Satpura in central India, home to one of the largest tiger populations left in the wild.
Living with Tigers
Often the simplest solutions work the best, this is the idea behind the Born Free’s Living with Tigers initiative. Seven tiger reserves in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh are linked by forest corridors that allow tigers to travel between them. In the nearby villages, volunteers are recruited as “tiger ambassadors” to patrol the area and recognize signs of tigers activity. Mobile education units teach local children about the value of conservation. Women are trained to be tourist guides, boosting their financial independence and employment levels. To reduce the dependence of the villagers on the forest resources like using sustainable bamboo for handicraft and providing biogas from cow dung—they both cut the need to go into the forest to harvest raw materials. Even building toilets so that villagers don’t have to risk encountering a tiger has made a difference.
It’s not only the tigers of Satpura (whose population is now 500 and growing) who have benefited. Manatees in Florida, elephants in Sumatra, and manta rays in the Pacific Ocean off Peru are just a few of the examples of conservation efforts that seek to help animals and the people who live alongside them.
These success stories, and others like them, are all the more important when you consider the scale of the threat facing so many ecosystems and species. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2019 has made environmental concerns aptly clear with the world on the pedestal to lose 60% of its natural species biodiversity are the forefront of challenges that we are facing. If the devastating loss of biodiversity is to be stopped, projects like Living with Tigers could offer us a practical way to live with each other and maybe these majestic felines will not need conservation efforts to flourish more naturally.