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Photo: Mint
Photo: Mint

India’s tiger population rises to nearly 2,500

India started Project Tiger in 1972 after the tiger count fell below 300 across nine tiger reserves

New Delhi: India’s tiger population has grown to around 2,500, up from 2,226 in 2014, Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar said.

Addressing the third Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation, Javadekar said it was a “proud moment" in January 2015 when he declared the result of a tiger count conducted in 2014. “Last two years, the number is rising and our rough estimate as of today is that India has nearly 2,500 tigers. That’s good news for India," he said.

India started Project Tiger in 1972 after the tiger population fell below 300 across nine tiger reserves. Currently, India has 49 tiger reserves.

About 100,000 tigers roamed the forests of the world in 1900, but their numbers dwindled steadily, hitting a low of 3,200 in 2010 when the last estimates were compiled. On Monday, a report by WWF and Global Tiger Forum revealed that globally, the number of tigers in the wild are 3,890.

The minister pointed out that the National Democratic Alliance government has increased the budget for Project Tiger from 185 crore last year to 380 crore this year.

A scheme to improve tiger corridors with help from industry was also announced at the conference.

“For using forest land for their projects, companies have to carry out compensatory afforestation. Under the scheme, incentives will be offered to project proponents to carry out that compensatory afforestation in areas that form part of such corridors. Exact modalities are being worked out," environment secretary Ashok Lavasa said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who inaugurated the three-day conference, called for international collaboration for tiger conservation.

“A major threat to the tiger is the demand for its body parts and derivatives. The forest and its wild denizens are an open treasury which cannot be locked up. It is painful to learn about trafficking of body parts and derivatives of tigers and other big cats. We need to collaborate at the highest levels of government to address this serious issue," said Modi.

He stressed that India too has been facing the challenge of poaching, but the positive side is that the majority of people respect trees, animals, forest, rivers and other elements of nature such as the sun and the moon.

“In India, the tiger is much more than just a wild animal. In our mythology, the mother goddess who is the embodiment of mother nature is depicted sitting on a tiger. In fact, most of our gods and goddesses are associated with some animal, tree or river. In fact, sometimes these animals are put on the same pedestal as gods and goddesses. No wonder the tiger is also our national animal. I am sure other tiger range countries would have some cultural legacy associated with tigers," Modi said.

The Prime Minister also noted that tiger conservation, or conservation of nature, is not a drag on development, and that both can happen in a mutually complementary manner. “This is a difficult task, but can be achieved. Our genius lies in ‘smartly’ integrating the tiger and wildlife safeguards in various infrastructures at the landscape level. This essentially takes us to the much-needed smart green infrastructure," Modi said.

Stating that studies have highlighted the fact that besides conserving the tiger, tiger reserves also provide a range of economic, social, cultural and spiritual benefits, Modi said, “We need to define conservation as a means to achieve development, rather than considering it to be anti-growth".

The Prime Minister stressed that tiger conservation can also contribute to fighting climate change.

“For the tiger range countries, a viable tiger population undoubtedly symbolizes a mitigation strategy for climate change. This will create a huge carbon sink in the form of tiger-bearing forests. Thus, conservation of tiger will go a long way in ensuring a good future for ourselves and our coming generations," he said.

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