Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Indian Tiger - Just 1,411 Left

By Dr. Nitha Thejal

The magnificent striped tiger (Bengal Tiger or Panthera Tigris), the national animal of India is on the verge of extinction. According to the latest statistics, there are just 1,411 tigers are left in India, including the ones spread over the different wild life sanctuaries across India. The main cause of the perishing population of these beautiful animals include:

Poaching for pelts, teeth and nails

Tiger skins fetch huge amounts of money in the international market. There are underworld mafia who trade tiger skins. The nails and teeth of the tiger are used to make jewellery. The tribal people also kill tigers to make traditional medicine from the animal's various body parts. But no studies have proven that these medicines have any curative power.

Unplanned and uncontrolled urbanization

Urbanization and encroachment into forest areas not only destroys the natural habitat of the tigers, but also affects the other smaller animals which are the food for these predators. Even though there are more than 40 tiger reserves in India, there are signs of human encroachment on the outskirts of these reserves by people for farming etc. The farmers organize and set traps to kill these animals saying that they attack their cattle.

Fear of life

People fear that a tiger might kill them for food. But actually the tiger doesn't kill humans; they might do so only if they are old or injured, starved and unable to hunt. They are solitary creatures who protect their territory and become angry and try to defend it when there is interference in its territory.

Wildlife Protection

The Indian Government has set up numerous initiatives to protect these animals. One of the major ones among these is Project Tiger, an initiative by the government of India to protect the national animal from the verge of extinction. It was started in 1972 and helped increase the population of these animals from 1,200 in the 1970s to 3,500 in 1990s. But it seems that their efforts seem to be decreasing; and the latest census in 2008 shows that the number of tigers in the whole of India is just 1,411. Now the Indian Government has set up a tiger protection force for strict control of poachers and has allocated funds to relocate people away from wildlife, to reduce tiger-human interaction.

It is not only India where these animals are endangered; it is facing this threat in all the other inhabited countries too, like Bangladesh, China, and Malaysia.

I am writing this as an animal lover.

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