April 23, 2010
Protection of tigers is happening in India against all odds. A Sariska-type crisis haunts every protected area in India - where islands of conservation are under attack from poachers, miners and every other exploitative activity. They are also under siege from their own inhabitants, the people, who live in these reserves and outside the islands of conservation, and who have not benefited from these protected areas but continue to lose livelihood options and face daily harassment. In these circumstances, if the defences are down, protection will fail. The challenge is to ensure that the siege can be lifted so that the tigers can survive.
India has 97 national parks and 510 wildlife sanctuaries covering an area of 1,56,618.58 sq km (roughly 23.38 per cent of the forest area and 4.76 per cent of the land area of the country). Of these, 38 have been declared tiger reserves, spread over 37,761 sq km in 17 states. The total country-level population of tiger is 1411 (mid value); the lower and upper limits being 1165 and 1657 respectively. But over half of these tigers live outside tiger reserves.
The concern is: how we must save the tiger and how we must do that in the particular circumstances of India, where forests are not wilderness areas but also where people live.