Topic: To protect tigers, India needs more better-equipped forest personnel
Topic in Syllabus: General Studies Paper 3: Ecology & Environment
India is currently the most dangerous country in the world for forest rangers. In 2017, 29 rangers were killed on duty in India; the Democratic Republic of Congo (17) and Thailand (8) made for a distant second and third, says a report of the International Ranger Federation.
- When there are almost daily reports of man-animal conflicts across the country, the Indian government’s pledge to protect tiger habitats and tiger corridors is a heartening piece of news.
- The second part of the promise is of utmost important because, while India’s total tiger population went up from 1,411 in 2006 to 1,706 in 2010 and 2,226 in 2014, the country recorded a 12.6% decline in tiger occupancy in connecting tiger habitats outside tiger reserves between 2006 and 2010, the latest period for which this data is available.
- The Wildlife Institute of India finds out that among 44 tiger reserves of the country, Corbett Tiger Reserve has the maximum number of 215 tigers.
- Corbett is followed by Bandipur and Nagarahole reserves in Karnataka with 120 and 101 tigers respectively.
- Leopard population in India was first time estimated to be 7,910, with Madhya Pradesh having 1,817 followed by Karnatka which has 1,129 leopards.
More about on news:
- Global Tiger Action Plan he action plan didn’t release data on the decline in the tiger population outside protected areas for 2014.
- The 2018 tiger census estimations, likely to be released on March 31, may see an increase in overall tiger numbers but may not offer any trends on their numbers in corridors (outside the protected areas) because it follows a different methodology.
- In January, in an unprecedented incident, more than 50 forest and police personnel were injured when a mob of relocated villagers brutally attacked them at the Melghat Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra.
Threats to tigers:
In the natural world the tiger is an apex predator – it’s only threat is man. The threats that man has created can be split into three categories:
Loss of habitat:
- The staggering growth in the human population throughout tiger range countries means less space for the tiger and the depletion of its prey forcing it into conflict with humans.
- Tiger habitat is being overtaken by agricultural land, timber cutting, access routes, human settlement and hydroelectric dams – all of which have contributed to a 93% loss of the historic tiger range over the last 100 years.
- All of this is creating small pockets of land in which tigers now live which are surrounded by rapidly increasing human populations.
- Isolated tiger populations can cause inbreeding which leads to a reduction in genetic diversity. To help remedy this, wildlife corridors are being built, linking the isolated areas and allowing the movement of wildlife.
- As tigers wander, trying to find new habitats, they often come into contact with humans which can lead to conflict.
- Depletion of the tiger’s natural prey will often cause tigers to hunt domestic livestock, another cause for conflict.
- Poaching is a massive threat for the last 3,500 wild tigers.
- Part of the illegal wildlife trade that is estimated to be worth US$19 billion a year, poaching is dictated by increasingly sophisticated and well-armed criminal gangs.
- The demand for tiger parts as trophies, status symbols and as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine is driving the tiger to the brink of extinction.
- In the first half of the 20th century hunting for trophies and as a form of pest control devastated tiger numbers.
- It wasn’t until the 1970’s that tiger hunting was made illegal in India.
- As climate change continues to warm the planet, tigers are feeling the heat. As we see ocean levels rise, tigers are losing habitat due to coastal erosion in areas like India’s Sundarban islands.
- As rising sea levels claim more habitat and sea water moves up river, naturally fresh water is becoming more saline, or more highly concentrated with salt.
Conflict with humans:
- As tigers continue to lose their habitat and prey species, they are increasingly coming into conflict with humans as they attack domestic animals – and sometimes people.
- In retaliation, tigers are often killed by angry villagers.
WWF-India’s efforts for tiger conservation:
WWF-India’s work for tiger conservation aims to maintain and restore tiger habitats and critical corridors while protecting the tiger and its prey base in the tiger landscapes within India, eventually leading to an increase and stabilization in tiger populations across the country. This work focuses on the following broad areas:
Research and monitoring:
- WWF-India, in partnership with the state forest departments, is conducting camera-trapping exercises and line-transect monitoring in all its tiger landscapes to monitor tigers, co-predators and prey base.
- It was the key NGO partner of the Government of India in conducting the most comprehensive tiger estimation exercise as part of the 2010-11 countrywide tiger estimation, which revealed a mean tiger population estimate of 1,706.
- Research and monitoring activities is a crucial element in tiger conservation because it helps understand the movement of tigers within and outside Protected Areas, thereby proving the importance of wildlife corridors and potential tiger habitats outside the core areas.
Mitigating human-tiger conflict
- WWF-India works closely with local communities living around tiger habitats to mitigate human tiger conflict issues. It provides immediate financial support as an interim relief to victims in case of loss of cattle and ex gratia payment in case of human injury or death.
- This interim relief helps appease sudden anger and controls retaliatory killing of tigers by the local communities who have suffered losses.
- Long-term human-wildlife conflict management measures have also been implemented.
- These include setting up of trenches around agricultural fields to reduce crop damage by wild herbivores, and installation of solar lights in the periphery of villages in Sundarbans to deter tigers from moving into human settlements.
- WWF-India provides strategic and timely infrastructural support to State Forest Departments such as patrolling vehicles, field kits, metal detectors, LED torches, GPS, walkie talkies, construction of anti-poaching camps and wireless towers for augmenting the protection regime in the tiger reserves, other Protected Areas and tiger habitats.
- This support aims to enhance their protection capabilities and thereby help to curb poaching of tigers and its prey species.
Capacity-building of frontline staff
- WWF-India conducts regular training of the state Forest Departments frontline staff for monitoring tiger and prey populations, enforcement as well as controlling wildlife crime.
- These training programmes cover a wide range of subjects, such as legal aspects and anti-poaching issues, crime control, forensic and wildlife management, better and more efficient patrolling methods, anti-poaching combat techniques, as well as monitoring tigers, use of new technology like GPS and compass.
- In certain tiger landscapes, well trained anti-poaching squads have been set up. WWF-India has partnered with the Uttarakhand Government to institutionalize capacity-building of the frontline staff through the Corbett Wildlife Training Centre, Kalagarh.
- Such regular training is essential to enhance the enforcement capabilities of the frontline staff.
Working with local communities in critical habitats and corridors:
- WWF-India involves the local communities living around tiger reserves into its overall tiger conservation strategy by promoting sustainable livelihoods, reducing forest dependence and strengthening local support for conservation. Villagers are introduced to alternate livelihood options such as production of jute and paper bags, vermi-composting, carpet weaving, mushroom and honey cultivation, and animal husbandry, which reduce their dependence on collection of Non Timber Forest Products (NTFP).
- In order to reduce their fuel wood consumption, smokeless stoves (chulhas) are provided to villagers, and they are encouraged to use biogas and bio-briquettes. Regular awareness programmes are conducted for school students and villagers to encourage involvement in conservation activities.
- They are also made aware about different government programmes for livelihood development.
Environment education and awareness:
- WWF-India conducts regular environment education activities with local communities, stakeholders and the wider civil society to make them aware about the critical issues facing conservation, and the steps they can take to help. These awareness programmes are targeted at school children and teachers in schools around tiger reserves as well as urban cities.
- Awareness programmes are also organized for various responsible stakeholders in tourism, encouraging them to follow and promote environment and wildlife friendly practices around wildlife habitats. Local communities are engaged in programmes that discourage the hunting of wild animals.
Policy and advocacy:
- Environment education activities are supplemented with policy and advocacy work to promote long term change through implementation and adoption of appropriate policies by the state and central government.
- WWF-India is involved in the preparation of tiger conservation plans for some Protected Areas.
- It lobbies with state governments for the restoration of critical wildlife corridors, and protection of important tiger habitat outside tiger reserves.
Support through TRAFFIC India:
- TRAFFIC is a joint programme of WWF and IUCN. In India, it operates as a division of WWF-India with an aim to monitor and investigate wildlife trade, and provide information to stakeholders as a basis for effective conservation policies.
- It conducts regular capacity building programmes to improve the understanding of wildlife laws and its implications for an array of enforcement agencies such as forest department, police, customs, and paramilitary forces.
- Sensitization programmes on wildlife are also conducted for the judiciary across the country to improve their awareness on wildlife laws.
Tiger conservation initiatives in India:
National tiger conservation authority:
- The National Tiger Conservation Authority is constituted under the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 for escalating tiger conservation.
- It is a statutory body working under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
- The Authority has been satisfying its mandate within the sphere of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 for strengthening tiger conservation in the country.
Objective of the NTCA:
- Providing statutory authority to Project Tiger so that compliance of its directives become legal.
- Fostering accountability of Center-State in management of Tiger Reserves, by providing a basis for MoU with States within our federal structure.
- Providing for an oversight by Parliament.
- Addressing livelihood interests of local people in areas surrounding Tiger Reserves.
The Project Tiger launched in 1973 is a 100% centrally sponsored scheme. It gives fund help to the ‘tiger range States’, for in-situ conservation of tigers in the chosen tiger reserves. It has put the endangered tiger on a guaranteed path of revival by protecting it from extinction. The Project Tiger aims to promote an exclusive tiger agenda in the core areas of tiger reserves, with inclusive people participation.
The habitats covered under Project tiger are:
- Central India conservation unit
- Shivalik-terai conservation unit
- North East conservation unit
- Sariska conservation unit
- Sunder bans conservation unit
- Eastern Ghats conservation unit
- Western Ghats conservation unit
Objectives of Project Tiger
- To guarantee a viable population of tigers for financial, scientific, aesthetic, social and ecological values.
- Limit the elements which lead to the reduction of tiger habitat and to tone down them by suitable strategy.
- Site-particular eco-development to decrease the dependency of local individuals and indigenous people on tiger reserve
Core and Buffer Area
- Core Area: The core area has the legal status of Wildlife Sanctuary or National Park. These areas are free of all forestry operations and human activities.
- Buffer Area: These multi-purpose areas consist of forest and non- land and subjected to conservation-oriented land use.
Benefits of Project Tiger
- The Project Tiger has put the tiger on a certain course of revival from the edge of destruction.
- The population of tigers in the country has augmented considerably after the establishment of the project.
- It has contributed towards numerous indescribable environmental profits to society.
- The project has opened a wide door of tourism and thereby employment opportunities.
- This initiative has brought participation of local people and their participation has made the habitat to revive.
- M-STrIPES, short for Monitoring System for Tigers – Intensive Protection and Ecological Status is a software-based monitoring system launched across Indian tiger reserves by the Indian government’s National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in 2010.
- The system’s objective is to strengthen patrolling and surveillance of the Endangered Bengal tiger.
- Forest guards in tiger reserves are equipped with personal digital assistants and GPS devices to capture data relating to tiger sightings, deaths, wild life crime and ecological observations while patrolling.
- The software system maps the patrol routes of forest guards, and the resulting data are then analyzed in a geographic information system.
- This is intended to enhance the effectiveness and spatial coverage of patrols.
- Additional target outcomes are the evaluation of human pressure and ongoing monitoring of habitat change.
- It is important to address human resource crunch by increasing recruitment and imparting better training.
- It is important to improve ground-level infrastructure in forests -vehicles for patrolling, staff quarters with basic facilities, and arms for forest guards.
- It is important to provide incentives to local people for conserving forests along tiger corridors and providing subsidised LPG connections to people to reduce dependence on timber from the forest.
- It is important to relocate villages in tiger reserves. The Shyamaprasad Mukherjee Jan Vikas Scheme which is helping relocate villages, situated in tiger corridors in Maharashtra is a step in right direction.
- Given that one of the biggest challenge to tiger conservation is encroachment upon their habitat, measures should be taken to combat habitat destruction and habitat fragmentation.
Discuss the various challenges faced in tiger conservation and briefly explain the Tiger conservation initiatives in India?