The headline from an Indian newspaper tells us all we really need to know: 69 tigers die in 9 months; only 1,706 left.
India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority (NCTA) just announced that tiger deaths are on the rise and that 69 of them having been killed or died naturally in the past nine months. This is a five-fold increase as compared to 2011.
“While 41 tigers were killed due to poaching or in road-hits and other accidents, the other 28 were natural deaths,” said Rajiv Sharma, an assistant inspector-general with NCTA. He reported that the maximum number of tiger deaths took place in Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
These deaths have brought down India’s tiger count to 1,706. This includes 61 tigers at the Kanha reserve, 143 at Corbett National Park, 22 in and around the Tadoba reserve, 65 at Mudumalai and 40 at Ranthambore tiger reserve. (However, in some good news, Sariska Reserve now has two new cubs, bringing its total number of tigers to seven. This is something, since only a few years ago no tigers were at Sariska, due to poaching).
Minister of state for environment and forests Jayanthi Natarajan said “The anthropogenic pressure on our forests and wildlife is much more than ever before due to the thrust on economic growth and creation of more jobs.” That’s a bit of an understatement.
New guidelines on tourism have been proposed by the Indian government, which, if accepted, would see the ban relaxed, but India’s Supreme Court once again postponed its decision to review the proposed guidelines and determine whether they are sufficient to lift the ban.
The ban has so far had a limited impact, but this month marks the start of the tiger tourism season and the real pain of the ban could be felt. The Supreme Court is due to hold another hearing on October 9th. There are concerns, especially from those in the tourism industry, that a final court decision could be delayed, partly due to the complexity of the issues, and India’s convoluted legal system.
Personally, I’m concerned that nothing concrete is going to happen. Tiger numbers will continue to decline, and people dependent upon tourism for their livelihoods will also suffer.
If you read the New York Times or National Geographic, you might have seen several stories on the poaching of elephants for the ivory trade. Much of it goes to China and Southeast Asia. Same with tiger parts.
India needs to do a better job protecting its tigers, with support from the international community. But as with the African elephants, education needs to be front and center where animal parts are sought after, especially in China. We know what needs to be done, though it may not be easy or cheap. Poaching needs to end, there must be more enforcement, plus viable economic opportunities provided to poor communities, educational efforts in places where people buy poached parts, and more protected areas and corridors, to name a few.
Ultimately the tiger ban is a good thing, but as I’ve written before, it could be in only certain parks, with some tourism allowed in others. There needs to be a balance between people and nature, but nature needs to be given a fair chance.
The Rights of Nature movement is active in India, with Dr. Vandana Shiva and her organization Navdanya gathering over 100,000 signatures in support of these rights. You can watch her presentation on rights of nature at this summer’s UN Rio+20 Earth Summit.
Conservation efforts alone aren’t enough. It’s time to do more and take serious action for the sake of tigers and all species – including people – before tigers are poached out of India.