From around 40,000 at the turn of the last century, there are just 1411 tigers left in India. Our National Animal is fighting for its life! 2009 was the worst year for tigers in India, with 86 deaths reported.
Its major cause is poaching of tiger for, bones and other tiger products and loss of their natural habitat due to climate change and human activities like logging, farming and encroachment of forests. Boost in population has lead people to struggle for finding place to live, that resulted in vanishing forest area and hence decrement in number of these wild animals.
Already we have lost many species of animals in last century. The animals are killed for commercial use, and for their skins.
Why projects fail…
Basic need: The anti-poaching campaign has failed because the need to protect an ‘animal’ does not appeal to a poor and illiterate ‘human’ who has to struggle to feed his family. Especially when killing that animal [our national animal in this case] can give him money to feed his family.
Low personal appeal: Moreover, projects like the Project Tiger are very impersonal; they fail to create personal involvement in the wellbeing of every tiger. It is difficult to feel passionately about an idea. For success in the project, strong, passionate and personal involvement is necessary by the people.
Inadequate punishment: The punishment by law for smuggling of tiger parts is also probably not severe enough to be a deterrent. And even if it is, corruption and loopholes in the legal system do not allow law to take its course.
Poor technology: There also seems to be inadequate funds for sophisticated equipment to monitor tigers, and surveillance of all entry points to the park. Guides are still relying on ineffective and obsolete systems like the waterhole or pugmark system to monitor tigers.
What we can do
Reward villagers: Huge monetary rewards should be announced for any information given by the villagers that could prevent poaching activity. The informants should additionally be promised anonymity and protection.
Use latest technology: Tigers can be radio-collared to track them in the park. Rangers should give daily reports of their location and wellbeing with their signatures on that report. CCTV cameras and multi-layered surveillance can be put up in strategic locations to avoid escaping accountability.
Enforce stringent laws: All loopholes in anti-poaching and anti-smuggling laws must be plugged. Any infringement of law should get the severest punishment.
Educate the public: The claimed aphrodisiac properties in tiger parts must be denounced by modern medicine and by the W.H.O vehemently as they are not backed by scientific trials and studies. Major campaigns educating people about their inefficacy should be launched so that they abstain from buying products that make such claims.
Every little bit helps. You can speak up about the cause. You can write or blog about our tigers. Even staying up-to-date with tiger facts like knowledge of tiger sanctuaries, their population, news updates, etc. helps. You can also donate money to NGOs working for the cause, like WWF-India.