With the overall increase in the budgetary allocation, this year for the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH), a centrally sponsored scheme, the Government of India has emphasized on the conservation of the ecosystem. The IDWH funds are used in programs such as Project Tiger, Project Elephant and Development of Wildlife Habitats. This year funds were increased from Rs 493.57 crore to Rs 532 crore.
In this article, we will explore how through the project Tiger the ecological ecosystem could be benefited and conserved well.
Project Tiger and its role in Conserving Ecosystem
"Project Tiger" launched on 1st April 1973 is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Government of India. It was launched in 1973 with the help of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (lUCN). Project Tiger was launched with an objective of in-situ conservation of wild tigers in designated tiger reserves and has succeeded in the preservation and protection not only of the tiger but also of other wild animals in the area.
Under the Project Tiger, 100% central assistance is provided for non-recurring items of expenditure to States, besides 50% matching grant for recurring items (90% for the North Eastern States), based on the Annual Plan of Operations of the tiger reserve, proposed by the State vis-à-vis the Tiger Conservation Plan. The project operates in consonance with section 38V of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Which body governs the Project Tiger?
Project Tiger is administrated by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a statutory body of the Ministry, with an overarching supervisory / coordination role, performing functions as provided in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Why saving the tiger is so crucial?
Tigers are terminal consumers in the ecological food pyramid and their conservation results in the conservation of all trophic levels in an ecosystem. Tiger plays a pivotal role in the health and diversity of an ecosystem. It is placed at the apex of the food chain and being a top predator; it helps keep the balance between the herbivores (prey) and the vegetation upon which they feed. Therefore, the presence of tigers in the forest is an indicator of the well-being of the ecosystem. The extinction of this top predator is an indication that its ecosystem is not sufficiently protected, and neither would it exist for long after that.
Tiger population in India- Tiger Census 2019
India is home to 80 percent of tigers in the world. Wild tigers are found in 18 of our States, viz. Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Project Tiger is being implemented in these States in collaboration with the respective State Governments.
Highlights of the Tiger Census
- India's national tiger assessment is the largest biodiversity survey being carried out anywhere in the world.
- To avoid human error, the assessment included the recording of primary field data digitally through mobile phone application like M-STrIPES (Monitoring System for tigers - intensive protection and ecological status), that uses GPS to geotag photo-evidences, and survey information made this exercise more accurate.
- Central India and the Eastern Ghats have the highest number of tigers at 1,033.
- Madhya Pradesh's Pench Sanctuary and Kerala’s Periyar sanctuary emerged as the best-managed tiger reserves in the country.
- Madhya Pradesh saw the highest number of tigers (526) followed by Karnataka (524) and Uttarakhand (442).
- Increase in Tiger population: Madhya Pradesh (71%) > Maharashtra (64%) > Karnataka (29%).
- North Bengal census could not happen because of agitation in Darjeeling hills.
- Worst Performers: Chhattisgarh and Mizoram saw a decline in tiger population.
- Chhattisgarh is the only state out of the 20 tiger-bearing states where the 2018- census counted 19 tigers, significantly fewer than the 46 of 2014.
- Greater conservation efforts are needed in the “critically vulnerable” Northeast hills and Odisha.
- The Dampa and Rajaji reserves, in Mizoram and Uttarakhand respectively are at the bottom of the list in terms of Tiger count.
To spread awareness, support tiger conservation and deal issues related to it, the International Tiger's Day is observed on 29th July every year. Some of the challenges include protection against poaching, fragmentation of habitat, securing inviolate space for the tiger to facilitate its social dynamics, addressing tiger-human interface, restoration of corridors and eliciting public support of local people by providing ecologically sustainable options.
In India, the National Tiger Conservation Authority / Project Tiger has issued a comprehensive set of guidelines for regulated tourism in tiger reserves to benefit tiger, visitors and local people. Therefore, protecting tigers under the 'Project Tiger' not only helped to keep their prey base alive but also protect the forests, the very core of the habitat and the ecosystem. Remember Tigers cannot survive without forests and similarly forests perish without tigers. In India, tigers inhabit a wide variety of habitats ranging from the high mountains, mangrove swamps, tall grasslands, to dry and moist deciduous forests, as well as evergreen and shola forest systems. Tigers need large undisturbed tracts of habitat with ample prey to maintain long-term viable populations; thus acting as
an umbrella species for a majority of ecoregions in the Indian sub-continent.
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