Throughout history tigers have been hunted to satisfy the human greed. India is one such example where the national animal is set to be wiped out from the nation. From a tiger population of 40,000 in the last century, we are now left with a little over 1,400. Why are their numbers falling drastically over the years even with all the tiger conservations programmes in place?
Reports suggest that the tiger population has decreased by 95 per cent since 1990 and within these 20 years, three of the nine species of tigers are now extinct! Apart from the Project Tiger programme initiated by the Govt. of India in 1973, hardly any other conservation projects have been successful.
Moreover, none of the 490 Tiger Reserves and parks have been able to successfully protect these innocent animals from being killed. For instance, Kanha, one the biggest Tiger Reserves in the country does not house any more tigers.
Some of the reasons for their hasty elimination are the rising human population, alarming levels of poaching, extreme poverty and rapid developmental activities. The tiger is also largely affected by many cultural factors. For instance, while some nations revere the tiger, others regard it as a source of potent medicine.
Manoj Oswal a wildlife officer says, “The main reason why the poachers can’t be tracked well today is because they aren’t that well versed with the tribal community and their links as the earlier wildlife officers used to be”. He continues to say, “It is very important for the officials to be linked with the villagers and their communities to keep track of poachers as these poachers mainly come from within these communities”.
The pelts of these tigers are sold at mind-boggling prices. The skin of a tiger could cost anything from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2 lakh and the poachers get twice this amount for the kill. In many nations tiger bones are used in medicines. Countries like China, Singapore and Indonesia entirely depend on this and even use the whiskers to fight ‘blackmagic’.
The root cause of this problem is the high level of corruption that takes place within the entire process of Tiger conservation. A lot of times security officials have been spotted accepting bribes from poachers to set them free without reporting the matter to the police.
Almost all the forest departments are under-equipped and under-staffed. Security systems at the conservation parks are obsolete. Case in point: most of the parks in our country still function with the security systems built during the British Raj.
Even if a poacher is apprehended, the punishment hardly merits the crime. The poacher could either get a bail if arrested, or in other cases, serve up to seven years in jail.
Today, we find our country filled with vast wildlife reserves, which are devoid of their most important element: the animals. The government now needs to take more urgent and strong actions to save this royal and graceful species that it so proudly proclaims as its national animal.