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How India has belled the cat

May 18, 2012

Minister of environment and forests Jayanthi Natarjan's speech at the first international stock taking meet to review the status of the Global Tiger Recovery Programme underscores India’s proud achievements in protecting the Big Cat.

The International Tiger Forum held in Russia under the aegis of the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI) in November, 2010 culminated in the St. Petersburg Declaration and a Global Tiger Recovery Programme (GTRP) that was adopted by all tiger range countries. Each of these nations stated their priorities in their National Tiger Recovery Programmes (NTRP). 

A year and a half since, the GTI is helping government representatives, donors, experts and conservationists to work jointly for the protection of tigers that are under threat from factors like poaching, illegal trade in the animal’s body parts and derivatives and loss of its habitat to the growing spread of  industries.

India is home to the world’s largest tiger population spread across 17 states. These statistics underscore the nation’s commitment to saving the Big Cat. India started the Project Tiger in 1973 with nine tiger reserves; today that number has swelled to 41. Our experience with Project Tiger demonstrates the importance of local public support for the success of conservation efforts.

The ‘exclusive’ tiger agenda in the core cat territory complemented by an ‘inclusive’ multiple-use strategy at its peripheries has helped strengthen the conservation effort by putting the ‘people agenda’ at the top. While coexistence is strictly barred in the ‘inviolate core areas’, a viable inclusive agenda involving local people is fostered in the surrounding buffer. As many as 25 lakh man-days of work is generated annually in states under Project Tiger for local workforces. 

Following its revision in 2011, the allotment to Project Tiger has been enhanced to Rs 1216.86 crores and the following new components included: (i) Revised funding pattern in respect of North Eastern States (90:10) (ii) increased compensation for man-animal conflict (Rs 2 lakhs) (iii) acquisition of private land for making the core/critical tiger habitat inviolate, (iv) establishment of Tiger Safari, awareness centres under the ‘co-existence agenda in buffer/fringe areas,’ and management of such centres through Panchayati Raj Institutions and (v)  re-introduction of the cheetah. 

Even as the reserves are being assisted for raising, arming and deploying the Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF), IT is being used to step up surveillance and a pilot initiative for 24X7 surveillance has been flagged off at Corbett using intelligent thermal cameras. Alongside the M-STrIPES programme has enabled field-based protocols for patrolling and ecological monitoring, aided by customized software for storage, retrieval, analysis and reporting. 

Recently an advanced programme has been launched to enable reserve-level monitoring of tiger population, its prey and habitat on an annual basis.  The protocol has a menu of options ranging from use of camera traps, distance sampling for prey to DNA analysis from tigers. The reserve level monitoring would further complement the quadrennial country-level snapshot assessment of tigers and its prey. A national repository of camera trap photo database of tigers is also being set up.  This unique ID system would enable linkages with similar repositories in States to keep track of wild tigers.

Based on a 2010 assessment, a new tiger reserve (Kawal Tiger Reserve, Andhra Pradesh) has been constituted and ‘in-principle’ approval has been accorded to declaring the Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu as a tiger reserve.

The 2010 country level snapshot assessment of tiger and its habitat has shown an increase of 20% over 2006.  However, the outcome has highlighted the need for restoring the fringe areas of tiger reserves and the connecting forest linkages.  The actionable points emerging from this and the second independent Management Effectiveness Evaluation of tiger reserves have helped us in shaping a future roadmap.  

At this stock taking meeting, officials from Russia and India would sign a resolution endorsing the joint agreed actions that emanated from the meeting of the Sub Group on Tiger and Leopard, in New Delhi in November, 2011. This forms a part of the India–Russia Inter Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Co-operation. Similarly, officials from India and Bangladesh would work towards strengthening their mutual protocol for the conservation of the Royal Bengal Tiger of the Sundarbans.

The fifth Indo-Nepal consultative meeting on Trans-boundary Biodiversity Conservation with a focus on Wildlife / Tiger Conservation was held in October, 2011 at Nepal. A joint resolution would be signed by the officials from the two countries based on the discussion. 

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