The number of tigers that were once victimized by poaching, hunting and illegal trading seems to be on the rise.
The last century saw a dramatic decline in the number of this predator. However, with the recent tiger census statistics in India, considered to be their major habitat, conservationists have become hopeful.
According to figures made public in Delhi by the Central Minister for Environment Jayram Ramesh at the end of March, the population of adult tigers in India has risen from 1,411 to 1,706.
If we add the 155 tigers of Nepal to India’s, the total accounts for more than half of the estimated worldwide cat population of 3,400. This is great news for both the countries that have adjoining conservation areas.
India has pledged to give priority to the adjoined conservation areas of Nepal along with its 39 tiger reserves. The conservation areas adjoining the two countries have been named as the major ecological corridors by India.
Krishna Prasad Acharya, Director General of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, says, “Along with mutual support from India in the border areas, joint patrolling and local support has to be augmented for wildlife conservation.”
The heads of state from 13 tiger-range countries (where tigers are found) gathered last week in New Delhi and pledged to make significant efforts in their individual countries to double the number of tigers by the upcoming tiger year 2022.
Last November, the Global Tiger Summit was held in St Petersburg where 13 heads of state signed the Declaration on Tiger Conservation. Giving continuity to the summit’s goals, “A conference on tiger conservation and workshop on implementation of the global tiger recovery plan” is being held in the Indian capital, starting Monday.
The heads of state have also agreed to meet once again in Nagpur, India, during December 2011, to discuss the developments of their tiger conservation programs. The Delhi conference invited nations, announcing Nagpur, that has six tiger reservations, as the “Global Tiger Capital.”
However, the bad news is that with rapid population growth in India, tiger habitats have decreased by 20,000 sq km. Central Minister Ramesh, therefore, has requested Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of India, to make plans keeping the tiger population in mind from here onwards.
Population growth also proves to be a major challenge for Nepal as it has increased pressure in Tarai as a result of which the natural habitats of tigers have been encroached upon heavily.
Whereas the tiger population in the northern parts of India adjoined with Nepal is reported to have increased by 54, the population has gone up from 297 to 353 in the northern parts considered to be the Ganges plains, along with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Balmiki, Sohelwa, Kataraniyaghat, Dudhwa, Lagga, Bagha, and the proposed Pilibhit tiger reserve, which are the major habitats of rhinos and tigers in India are connected to Parsa, Chitwan, Bardiya, Banke, and Shuklaphanta of Nepal.
Since the conservation areas are not attached to each other at the landscape level, experts have been continually stressing on the necessity of India to work together with Nepal for genetic conservation of wildlife.
During the international conference held last year in Russia, all 13 nations had agreed to formulate plans in their individual countries, consenting to the goal of doubling tiger population in the Global Tiger Recovery Plan.
In the conference, jointly organized by Global Tiger Initiative and Global Tiger Forum, Nepal presented its major case points for the improvement of tiger habitat, illegal poaching, wildlife trading, and skills development of conservationists.
Due to the lack of standard road networks in conservation areas of Nepal, patrolling has not been carried out, and during rainy season, it is almost impossible to patrol. As a result of this, forest crimes have been hard to control. For that, Acharya says it is important to build a network of roads.
After being defamed as the transit point for smuggling of rare wildlife products at the end of Tiger Year 2010, Nepal has prioritized the establishment of South Asian Secretariat to put an end to this trade.
Wildlife experts from different South Asian countries gathered in Bhutan at the end of January this year had consented on having the permanent Secretariat office of South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) in Nepal.
Nepal has also set a goal to increase its tiger population to 250 within 10 years. Besides Nepal and India, China, Bangladesh, Thailand, Myanmar, Bhutan, Russia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Mongolia, Malaysia, and Laos are considered as Tiger Range countries.
The major case points put forward by the Tiger Range countries for conservation of this rare wildlife are habitat protection, restriction in illegal international trading, and demarcation of conservation areas, as well as preservation in its food chain.
Following the completion of the Kathmandu Global Tiger Workshop in October 2009, Nepal has been making great efforts for tiger conservation and this was acknowledged at the Delhi conference.
Nepal cited that countries like China should work to lessen the demand of wildlife products which gained everyone’s consent.
In Nepal’s perspective, China’s effort to change the attitude of Chinese citizens for tiger conservation has brought about positive developments. According to Diwakar Chapagain, expert from World Wide Fund (WWF), if properly conserved, tigers are such species that can proliferate quickly.
The conference also praised Nepal’s efforts such as signing halted agreements with India and China regarding conservation issues, advocating the establishment of SEWAN Secretariat office in Kathmandu for wildlife crime control, establishment of Banke National Park, increasing the area of Bardiya National Park, forming a national tiger conservation committee with the prime minister as its president and publishing postage stamps for tiger conservation.
In the past century, tiger population from traditional tiger habitats has been decreased by 93%. A century ago, there were 100,000 tigers in Asia and surrounding countries. After 1940, three sub-species of tigers have become extinct and South China tiger has not been spotted in jungles for over 25 years.
Since Tiger Year 1998, 60% of tiger habitats have been destroyed and tigers are now restricted to living in the remaining seven percent of its previous traditional area or range.
According to stats made public by Global Tiger Forum last year, areas such as Nepal, India, Russia, China, Vietnam, America, Europe, Greater Mekong Region (Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, China, and Vietnam), Indonesia, and Malaysia are deemed as danger zones for tigers, due to poaching, hunting and illegal trade.