The Tiger is a majestic animal..The mention of our National animal evokes mixed responses of fear, awe, respect and appreciation as William Blake immortalized the tiger with his poem 'Tiger Tiger Burning Bright in the Forests of the night'. Legendary hunter turned conservationist Jim Corbett referred to the Tiger as a 'gentleman with boundless courage'. The sad state of the Tiger today makes one wonder if these lines hold good in today's commercialized world where every natural resource is being expended without a thought for conservation and sustainable development. Let's look at a few glaring realities -
India had over 30,000 tigers at the start of the 20th century
Tiger shooting was banned in India in 1970
Project Tiger was started in 1973 when the tiger count had gone below 2000.
In mid 1990s the tiger count was around 3500.
The current tiger counts stands at 1411
The reason for the tiger's sad decline has been incessant shooting during the British Raj by both British civil servants and maharajahs of princely states. Post independence there was the rise of jeep and spotlight aided shooters and poachers. Now poaching still continues with tiger bones and other body parts fetching a fortune in the Chinese markets.
Recently the rise in conflicts between humans and tigers are on the rise as boundaries of civilization keep expanding on to tiger habitats. Frequent news of human kills in Sunderbans and the recent man-eating menace in Corbett National Park are grave reminders of how serious the problem of human encroachment is. For the tiger to have any chance to survive and thrill future generations human encroachment into park buffer and core areas must stop. The state governments must do their bit in providing the required funds, decision making agility to make things happen on the ground. Its a now or never effort that must involve corporate houses, governments and people participation. For those who have frequented reserved forests and heard or seen a tiger in its natural habitat would know what a magnificent animal it is.
I sincerely hope that with the Aircel initiative the tiger would get a fresh lease of life and the master of the jungle would get many more years to survey the jungle in the characteristic nonchalant manner. Nothing like the forest reverberate with the call of a tiger on a moonless night. The long guttural call warning all inhabitants of the jungle that the king was on the move.
Hope the future generations have a chance to see the tiger in all its majesty in its natural habitat.