Thursday, January 12, 2012

tiger habitat

Tiger - A National Emergency?!

The tiger, as we all know is India's national animal. Occupying a position at the very top of the food chain, it is a very crucial constituent of our ecology. From over 10,000 of them just a few years ago to less than 1,500 right now, the rapid decline in their numbers is absolutely shocking. If left this way, the repercussions which follow will not only be far reaching but also quite disastrous. Let us just analyze the situation and see if there is anything at all we can do to save them.

Firstly let us look at the main reasons which have led to this situation. At very early stages, before the start of this century, tigers roamed around the whole country freely. However, as human population increased, massive amounts of their natural habitats- forests were destroyed to accommodate people and their livelihood. Tigers were also considered as a threat to human lives, and hence were shot, poisoned and killed. At the time of the British rule, a huge number of them were hunted down in the name of sport. Presently, they are mainly confined to wildlife reserves which are supposed to a safe haven for them, but have unfortunately not been able to do a good job at protecting them. Tigers serve as living goldmines to poachers who hunt them down for their skin, bones and other organs to sell them off for exorbitant prices to China which has a huge demand for these 'luxury items'. Rampant hunting of other animals which form prey to Tigers along with the destruction of green cover, leading to empty forests is another issue.
The biggest reason however is the extremely low protection in the confined areas. Most of our wildlife reserves neither have the resources nor the expertise to effectively handle poaching. India has some of the most stringent wildlife laws in the world but lack proper enforcement. The tiger is protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act and killing one is punishable with a maximum penalty of 7 years in prison and a fine of over Rs.10, 000 except of course when the person kills it in self defense.
Encroachment of a tiger habitat also garners similar penalty. But very few people are caught and fewer are successfully prosecuted. Each state bears the responsibility of protecting natural resources in its region, but wildlife conservation hardly attracts any attention from the government owing to other 'burning' issues which manage to get higher priority from them. This has resulted in low political awareness and subsequently low political will towards wildlife conservation.
Our tigers are not disappearing because of being attacked by a deadly virus or being inflicted by an incurable disease, they are dying due to a failure of a system designed to protect them. They are a resilient species that breeds well and is known to thrive in different kinds of habitats. All that is needed is a safe and healthy habitat with adequate protection from human interference and attack, and you can see them bouncing back to healthy numbers again.
As citizens of India it is all our responsibility to protect our national animal. At this point, you might wonder what I can do to save the tiger; I am just another corporate employee. A lot can be done by creating awareness.
Every one of us should do whatever little we can in this direction and it won't be long before saving the tiger assumes priority in the eyes of our government officials. It is our duty to give our kids a chance to see live tigers walking and roaring and not as stuffed specimens in a museum.

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