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B 153, Nehru Colony, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India
B 153, Nehru Colony, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India
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The tiger has a central symbolic significance in India. Tiger hunting was a favourite pastime of the Mughal emperors, and of Maharajas and British colonials in more recent times. In the early years of the 20th Century, the tiger was regarded as a major pest. ÔMan eatersÕ, usually old or infirm tigers that could not pursue swifter prey, threatened villages on numerous occasions, and gave ample justification for those who wished to hunt this most prized form of game. The Ôman-eaterÕ problem, to a large extent, stemmed from the expansion of agricultural land, and the consequent reduction in tiger habitats. As habitats declined, tigers were forced to prey on humans who, in normal circumstances, they would wish to avoid. The tiger is now an endangered species, with between 5,000 – 7,500 wild tigers remaining worldwide. The majority of these are in India (2,500 – 3,000). The decline of the tiger is mainly due to habitat destruction, but also hunting motivated by the high prices tiger body parts may reach on global markets. In China especially, tiger bones and meat are used in traditional medicine, and as supposed aphrodisiacs. Powdered tiger bones are believed to be effective against ulcers, typhoid, malaria, dysentery and burns, not to mention fright, evil influences, convulsions in infants, devils, scabies and boils. As a result, 10 kg of dried tiger bones can fetch over $2,000 at the Chinese border. A continuing market exists for luxury items such as tiger skins. Taken together, a single tiger can yield products worth $10,000. Tiger products also find ready markets in Korea and Taiwan, where ÔTiger bone wineÕ is a major product. Poaching is an accelerating phenomenon. As a species becomes rarer, its parts become more valuable, increasing the financial incentive for poachers and illegal traders. There are even reports that some traders are stockpiling animal products in anticipation of their becoming extinct, when prices will rise yet further.
It is illegal to kill a tiger anywhere in the world, except Burma, but poaching continues due to the large amounts of money that can be made. It is believed that the tiger may become extinct in the wild within this decade. India first drew attention to the plight of tigers more than 20 years ago, and is still at the forefront of tiger conservation. India was also one of the first countries to ban tiger hunting. By 1972, tiger numbers had fallen to less than 2,000 from an estimated 40,000 at the beginning of the century. This jolted conservationists into action. WWF-World Wide Fund For Nature – pledged US$1 million for tiger conservation in the country and the Government of India launched Project Tiger (1973), committing US$16 million for the first ten years. This has led to the establishment of 23 tiger reserves (Protected Areas or PAs) so far and others are planned. Ten years after the launch of Project Tiger, India celebrated a 50 per cent increase in tiger numbers, reaching 3,015 in 1979. A 1993 census estimated 3,750 tigers, and numbers were also up in Nepal and stable in Bangladesh. Many PAs have become important tourist destinations. In this way, tourism can contribute to conservation, by providing an income from the natural world. Otherwise, economic considerations may place tiger habitats under severe pressure. Teams of rangers were formed to protect tigers, and to act as guides to tourists. However, poaching and conflicts between tigers and those living on the fringes of national parks have halted further recovery and given cause for concern. The Director of Project Tiger recently announced that there may be no more than 2,500 left in India with animals dying at the rate of one a day. Additionally, rangers have also come under direct attack. For example, in 1993, two forest guards were killed in Ranthambhore National Park, in Rajastan. It is believed by workers in the field, that there may be fewer than 500 wild tigers in India by 2010. Saving the tiger will involve international effort, both in helping to fund conservation efforts within India and other countries, but also in cracking down on international trade in products from endangered species.

Post Author: guru shishya