Project Tiger is the most famous wildlife conservation project of India, which was lunched in 1972 to protect the diminishing population of Indian tigers. As recently as 1970, the hunting of tigers was legal in India and this majestic animal was hunted by the erstwhile royals and elites for pleasure and its beautiful skin. According to various estimates, during the 1950s and early 1960s, over 3,000 tigers lost their lives to trophy hunters. In the beginning of the 1970s, the tiger population in India was estimated to be around 1,800, shocking and jolting the concerned authorities to formulate an immediate plan to save Indian tigers and the result was the launch of Project Tiger in 1972.
India is home to the largest number of wild tigers in the world and shelters approximately 60% of the world's wild tiger population. Initially 9 Tiger reserves covering an area of 16,339 sq km were chosen for Project Tiger. Corbett National Park was the first national park of India to be covered under Project Tiger on April 1st, 1973. Now as many as 27 Tiger Reserves, covering an area of37,761 sq km, are included in Project Tiger.
The main aim of Project Tiger was to create a safe haven and ideal environmental conditions for the survival and growth of tigers and its prey to ensure maintenance of a viable population of this wonderful animal in the country. From its inception in 1972, Project Tiger was aimed at saving the tiger and to identify and eliminate the factors responsible for the decline of tiger population in the country. The factors recognized by Project Tiger included habitat destruction, forestry disturbance, loss of prey, poaching and competition with local villagers and domestic animals.
One of the best examples proving the success of Project Tiger in India is the famous Bandipur Tiger Reserve. According to surveys the number of tigers in Bandipur Tiger Reserve has risen from only 10 in 1972 to around 80 in 1997. Similarly the number of tigers in Corbett Tiger Reserve also increased from mere 40 in 1972 to about 150 in 1997. Tiger population in India may not still be in thrilling numbers and poaching still may be quite rampant but a lot more effort is being put into saving this beautiful animal.
Though Project Tiger once saved the tigers from extinction in India, today the Project faces some major problems, creating grave situations for India tigers. Reports of widespread poaching of tigers in two of the premier Tiger Reserves of North India- Sariska and Ranthambore is heartbreaking news for tiger lovers all around the world. Thanks to the efforts made by Dr. Manmohan Singh, the present Prime Minister of India, who visited Ranthambore to review the condition and ordered a high level inquiry to book the culprits. A special committee comprising of eminent ecologists and wildlife experts, under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister himself, has also been constituted to find new ways to curb the menace of indiscriminate poaching of tigers in India.
List of Tiger Reserves in India
Pench (Madhya Pradesh)