India contains 60% of the world's tigers; as recently as 1970 it was still
legal to hunt them and to export skins. During the 1950s and early 1960s it
is recorded that more than 3,000 tigers lost their lives to trophy hunters,
most of these being tourists. It caused the extinction of tigers in India. To overcome this disaster a tiger project named Project Tiger was launched on April 1, 1973 on
the basis of the recommendations of a special task-force of the Indian Board
Aims of Project Tiger in India
Project Tiger launched on the 1st April 1973 at Corbett National Park. It's
» To ensure maintenance of a viable population of tigers in India for
scientific, economic, aesthetic, cultural and ecological values.
» To preserve, for all times, areas of such biological importance as a
national heritage for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people.
» Early development:
» With the co-operation of the Indian Government, Project Tiger
initially established 9 reserves, across different ecosystems. These were
devoted specifically to saving the tiger and eliminating those factors which
were contributing to the decline of the tiger:
1. Habitat destruction.
2. Forestry disturbance.
3. Loss of prey.
5. Competition with local villagers and domestic animals.
Reserve Operations of Project Tiger
Within the reserves, certain areas were designated as breeding grounds
(core areas) and these were out of bounds to the public. It was hoped that
as tiger populations increased any surplus animals would migrate to
neighbouring forests. To encourage this to happen, routes were established
away from public view which allowed easy access to other forests. Wide
buffer zones protected the breeding areas and public access to these was
The grazing of domestic cattle was halted, as was the harvesting of
forestry. Entire villages were moved from the lands of their forefathers to
areas where the people would no longer conflict with the wildlife. Most went
with little complaint. Waiting for them were new houses, more land, and
Ranthambhore was one of the first to be cleared of cattle and the other
reserves followed soon after.
Vehicles for different ecosystems
Assorted vehicles were donated to enable transport around the various
ecosystems. Speed boats covered the swampy Sundarbans, while camels went to
arid Ranthambhore. Elephants for the rain forests of Manas, bullock carts
for Melghat. Diesel-powered jeeps went everywhere. The carcasses of dead
animals were left to rot, left to feed the scavengers and fertilise the
soil. A 'hands off attitude' was taken. Terms like 'National Park' were
dropped in favour of 'Tiger Reserve'.
Initial Successes of Project Tiger
To begin with, this plan was a great success and the tiger count showed an
increase of animals in the wild. Numbers went from approximately 1,800 at
the commencement of the programme, to more than 4,000 during the first 11
golden years of Project Tiger.
A halt in Project Tiger
After Mrs. Ghandi's assassination in 1984 the accuracy of the figures was
questioned. It now seems that the true upswing in tiger numbers may have
been considerably lower. Pug marks had been too heavily relied on for census
counts, and this we now know to be a very inexact method. Concern for their
jobs had led some forest officials to artificially inflate the number of
tigers under their care; the logic was more tigers meant better job
Despite all of this there is little doubt that there was a significant
improvement in the situation of the tiger during the best years of Project
Alarming Reversal in tiger numbers
Once Mrs. Gandhi was no longer in Government conservation of endangered
species assumed a lesser importance. By the end of the 1980s, protections
that had been put in place were fraying at the edges:
» Politicians listened more to the local farmers who wanted to clear
forests and convert them for agricultural use.
» Buffer zones and access routes were encroached upon and forest areas
once more fell to the axe.
» Habitat loss caused a reduction in prey animals. These were also
killed by the native people for food.
» Poachers accelerated this loss through snaring, shooting and
poisoning. Body parts were illegally exported to China for use in
traditional folk medicines.
Along with these things the population of India had increased by 300
million people since the inception of Project Tiger. Livestock numbers rose
by 100 million animals. It was almost inevitable that in the face of these
renewed threats tigers would once again begin to vanish at an alarming rate.
Though it has had a somewhat bumpy history, Project Tiger carries out some
very worthwhile work and was undoubtedly the best thing to happen for the
Bengal subspecies. It has also proven to be scientifically sound, something
which was heavily questioned during its inception. The number of reserves
have slowly risen from the initial 9 to 19, and in recent times up to a
total of 23. These presently cover an area of approximately 33,000 square
Current Objectives of Project Tiger
Overall, the aims and objectives remain much the same as at the inception
of Project Tiger. Present important objectives include the rehabilitation
and relocation of villagers from inside protected areas to outside them.
This will reduce conflict between the human population and the tiger.
A Continuing Struggle
It is considered vitally important that the Indian Government provide the
Bengal tiger with more much-needed protection and care. Many of the things
documented on the previous page remain out of control and conservationists
are watching in horror as tiger numbers once more steadily decline.
At this point in time the Government spends approximately US$75 million per
year in an effort to ensure the survival of the Bengal tiger. Yet the amount
of this money making it into the field is less than ideal. Rangers are
desperately short of equipment. Items such as boots, even second-hand ones,
and binoculars, are on the much-needed list. Things are so desperate that
some staff are stranded at guard posts instead of being able to carry out
the routine patrols so necessary to preventing an increase in poaching.
Though it once saved the tiger extinction in India, today the unfortunate truth
is Project Tiger faces some major problems and the tiger is in a grave
situation requiring authorities to be proactive in an effort to prevent
extinction of tigers in India.
Project Tiger Reserves in India
Interesting Facts about Tiger
» Siberian Tiger is the biggest cat in the world reaching a size of
» Can jump 30 feet in a single leap.
» Tigers are the only big cats that enjoy going into water.
» There are only 200 white tigers left in the world. The last spotting
of a White Bengal Tiger in the wild was in central India in 1951. It is from
this animal that all White Tigers in captivity today have descended.
» Three of the sub species of tigers are now extinct from human
» Some analysis predict that Tigers may go extinct after the turn of