Tue, Jul 30, 2019 - Page 6 News List

India’s tiger population rises to nearly 3,000

AP, NEW DELHI

Schoolchildren wearing tiger masks yesterday join an awareness rally to mark Global Tiger Day at the Alipore Zoo in Kolkata, India. The government announced yesterday that the nation’s tiger population had climbed to nearly 3,000 last year.

Photo: AP

India’s tiger population has grown to nearly 3,000, making the country one of the safest habitats for the endangered animals.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday released the tiger count for last year, saying it was a “historic achievement” for India as the big cat’s population had dwindled to 1,400 about 14 to 15 years ago.

Yesterday was Global Tiger Day, created in 2010 at the St Petersburg Tiger Summit in Russia.

India estimates its tiger population every four years. The tiger is India’s national animal and it is categorized as endangered under the Wildlife Protection Act.

Indian Minister of the Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar said the tiger population was 2,226 in the last count, in 2014.

The human conflict with tigers has gradually increased since the 1970s, when India started a tiger conservation program that carved out sanctuaries in national parks and made it a crime to kill them.

“With around 3,000 tigers, India has emerged as of one of the biggest and safest habitats for them in the world,” Modi said and praised all the stakeholders involved in the country’s tiger conservation exercise.

“Nine years ago, it was decided in St Petersburg that the target of doubling the tiger population would be 2022. We in India completed this target four years in advance,” he said.

He also said that the number of protected areas in the country has risen from 692 in 2014 to 860 last year. Similarly, the number of community reserves has gone up to 100 from 43 in 2014.

Belinda Wright, founder of the New Dehli-based Wildlife Protection Society of India, said India should be very proud of its conservation achievement as the latest study was a much larger and more thorough estimation of the tiger population than done before.

“But we still have a long way to go to secure a long-term future for wild tigers,” she said, adding that human-tiger conflict was one of the biggest conservation challenges because India has so many people.”

The conflict between wildlife, confined to ever-shrinking forests and grasslands, and India’s human population is deadly. Government data show about one person is killed every day by tigers or elephants.

Wright said the government should not relax any protection measure and should avoid “huge linear intrusions, including highways, railways, electric power line and canals through protected areas as this leads to increased human-tiger conflict.”

In related news, Modi is teaming up with British TV adventurer Bear Grylls to venture into India’s wilderness to raise awareness about protecting nature, Grylls said yesterday.

“People across 180 countries will get to see the unknown side of PM @narendramodi as he ventures into Indian wilderness to create awareness about animal conservation & environmental change,” Grylls, star of Man vs. Wild on the Discovery Channel, said on Twitter.

A trailer for the program shows Modi, 68, driving into the Jim Corbett National Park in northern India guided by Grylls, with images of a tiger, a herd of elephants and deer running in the distance.

Modi said he had grown up in nature and the program with Grylls was a chance to showcase India’s rich wildlife.

“For years, I have lived among nature, in the mountains and the forests,” Discovery quoted Modi as saying in a statement. “These years have a lasting impact on my life. So when I was asked about a special program focusing on life beyond politics and that too in the midst of nature I was both intrigued and inclined to take part in it.”

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