Tuesday, Jun 25, 2024 | Last Update : 08:46 AM IST

  Opinion   Edit  10 Apr 2023  AA Edit | It’s time to rejoice as tiger numbers rising

AA Edit | It’s time to rejoice as tiger numbers rising

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Apr 11, 2023, 12:10 am IST
Updated : Apr 11, 2023, 12:10 am IST

The question that needs to be answered is whether India, as a country, can put its national conservation goals where they need to be

Camera trap images of tigresses with cubs in Amrabad Tiger Reserve. (Picture from 'The Tiger Book of Amrabad Tiger Reserve'/By arrangement)
 Camera trap images of tigresses with cubs in Amrabad Tiger Reserve. (Picture from 'The Tiger Book of Amrabad Tiger Reserve'/By arrangement)

The standard outlook when it comes to conservation of natural resources, particularly in a country like India seeking to leapfrog into a $5 trillion economy, is that there may not be many reasons to cheer. However, despite all the challenges that come with this facet, the tiger stands as a beacon of hope for India.

Fifty years after the launch of Project Tiger this month in 1973, India has a reason for hope today with tiger numbers going up, with the latest count putting the striped cat at 3,167 in 2022, up from 2,226 in 2018. Even better is the news that the numbers of Asiatic lions rose from 523 to 674, and that of leopards increased from 7,910 to 12,852 during the same period, indicating that if not everything, something is being done right by India’s foresters, and people living by, or in forests, at least in some parts of the country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s declaration that ecology and economy can go hand in hand and exist harmoniously, gives some hope amidst warnings from conservationists that recent amendments to the Forest Conservation Act will gut efforts to protect forests and wildlife. This is a debate that was part of forest and wildlife conservation, and will, and should continue in the decades to come. The value of such debates cannot be undervalued as the country will see increasing demands on land, water, and other natural resources such as minerals, for which the forests are repositories.

The tiger, has rightly become the symbol of India’s conservation efforts and it is with pride India can today boast that five decades of hard work to protect it and help its numbers grow is paying off, and not just in terms of the animals, or the acreage of forests across the country under protection. But challenges remain with the three big cats spilling outside their protected areas and with emerging scenarios of conflicts with humans living in and around protected areas.

An even greater challenge in continuing the development process, and at a speed the country requires as it strives to grow economically, is cohabiting infrastructure projects with wildlife, particularly, the tigers, leopards, and of course lions. The idea that protecting the apex species in each of the landscapes results in conserving their ecosystem has been proved beyond dispute but there is a very long way to go with a rising need for wildlife-friendly infrastructure that will allow progress to zip along, and the animals move around safely.

At this moment, it is time to rejoice in the success of Project Tiger, and the rise in the numbers of India’s national animal. Confrontations will become more frequent in the years to come between well-meaning conservationists and wildlife managers. The question that needs to be answered is whether India, as a country, can put its national conservation goals where they need to be, and find a way to put into practice Modi’s call for harmony between ecology and economy.

Tags: project tiger, asiatic lions, narendra modi, forest conservation act