[Sansad TV] Perspective: Saving the Tiger

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  • India has registered biggest margin of drop in tiger numbers in a decade in the year 2021.
  • 127 big cats have fallen prey to everything from poachers and accidents to natural causes with man-animal conflict last year.

Tigers in India

  • India is home to a third of the global tiger population and the country’s success in saving the big cat is crucial to global efforts to protect their numbers.
  • India was the first country in the world to champion the cause of conservation of the tiger and its natural habitats.
  • The aesthetic, ethical and cultural value of tigers have also proved to be critical factors for saving tigers, which has also ensured the success of tiger conservation in India.

Why is it necessary to conserve Tigers?

The tiger is a unique animal that plays a pivotal role in the health and diversity of an ecosystem.

  • Predation balance: It is a top predator which is at the apex of the food chain.
  • Regulation of herbivores: It keeps the population of wild ungulates in check, thereby maintaining the balance between prey herbivores and the vegetation upon which they feed.
  • Ecosystem balance: Therefore, the presence of tigers in the forest is an indicator of the well being of the ecosystem.
  • Tourism: Apart from the ecological services provided by the animal, the tiger also offers direct use such as attracting tourists, which provide incomes for local communities.

Various efforts to save Tigers

India is home to 70 percent of the global tiger population. Therefore, the country has an important role to play in tiger conservation.

[1] Project Tiger

  • The Government of India started ‘Project Tiger’ in 1972 with a view to conserving the animal.
  • As part of this project nine core buffer areas for maintaining tiger population were notified. Now, this has >expanded to 48 tiger reserves.

[2] CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora)

  • Besides protecting tiger territory, other measures being taken to save the tiger include: curbing wildlife trade through international agreements.
  • CITES is an international agreement between governments aimed at ensuring that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants, including tigers, does not threaten their survival. India ratified this treaty in 1976.

[3] Global Tiger Forum and Tiger Range Countries

  • Established in 1994, the Global Tiger Forum is the only inter-governmental body for tiger conservation.
  • Its membership includes seven tiger range countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal and Vietnam.

[4] CA|TS

  • 14 tiger reserves have been accredited under CA|TS (Conservation Assured | Tiger Standards) categories.
  • The CA|TS is a set of criteria that examines the management of tiger sites to gauge the success rates of tiger conservation.

[5] St. Petersburg Declaration   

  • This resolution was adopted In November 2010, by the leaders of 13 tiger range countries (TRCs) assembled at an International Tiger Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia
  • It aimed at promoting a global system to protect the natural habitat of tigers and raise awareness among people on white tiger conservation.

[6] Various NGOs

  • International NGO members consist of World Wildlife Fund, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and TRAFFIC.
  • Several national NGOs from India and Nepal are also members.

Success of these efforts

The four-year tiger census report, Status of Tigers in India, 2018 shows numbers of the big cat have increased across all landscapes.

The total count has risen to 2,967 from 2,226 in 2014 — an increase of 741 individuals (aged more than one year), or 33%, in four years.

  • At present, India has around 75% of tiger population and its source areas amongst the 13 tiger range countries in the world.
  • 2.24% of country’s geographical area is spread out in 51 tiger reserves in 18 States.

Various threats to Tigers

  • Despite measures being initiated to protect wild tigers, habitat loss and poaching continue to pose a threat to the animal’s survival.
  • Tiger parts are used in traditional Chinese medicines, tiger skin is used for decorative and medicinal purposes and tiger bones are again used for medicinal purposes for curing body pain, et al.
  • Between 2000 and 2014, TRAFFIC’s research found that parts of a minimum of 1,590 Tigers were seized in Tiger range States, an average of two Tigers per week.

Other existential threats to tigers

  • Man-Animal conflict: This largely seems a normal phenomenon in India. We broadly remember the case of Tigress Avni which was finally shot dead by the forest officials in Maharashtra.
  • Shrinking habitat: This often leads to territorial conflicts among the Tigers.
  • Issues with Tourism: Excess of tourist activities is problematic for animals. Frequent visits in reserved forests areas disrupt them to move freely for their prey.
  • Climate Change: The effects of climate change and floods are a major problem.  The latest study by WWF shows that Sundarban which is one of the biggest home of tigers in India would sink entirely in 2070.

Way forward

  • The process of tiger conservation should be more dynamic and compatible with the future possibilities of climatic changes as well.
  • The Forest Department and the Central government can collaborate to protect the natural corridors to ensure the free movement of the tigers for better food resources.
  • Campaigns such as ‘Save the Tiger’ are recommended as effective measures to make people across the country and globe aware of the significance of conserving tiger species.
  • Sensitization of local communities against poaching is also a crucial measure in this regard.
  • We have to make the environment and development co-exist and go hand in hand by planning our future developmental goals in such a manner that our environmental goals are not compromised.
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