Tiger, our endangered National Animal
N Munal Meitei
We must protect tigers from extinction because our planet’s future depends on it. Tiger is a symbol of beauty, bravery, strength, and nationality; so saving the tiger means saving the National pride. The beautiful, awe-inspiring tiger is one of planet’s most iconic animals. Tiger the royal animal revered in various cultures is also called the ‘Umbrella Species’ and by conserving this majestic species, we also conserve pristine eco-system and thousands of other species in the same habitat.
Not so long back, there had been many instances where tigers were killed in Manipur. We have heard of the word 'Keichanba.' This is a procedure for trapping or to kill the tiger where very big enclosures are made all around the place where tiger is believed to be there with posts and poles mainly of bamboos. This was not done for all tigers but for those which had become man-eaters or that had started frequently killing the cattle. The famous keichanba at Naoripat at Kakching and also at Wangoo are some of the examples. All these prove that there were abundant tigers in Manipur in the past though we are now not included in the global tiger map.
Tigers are incredibly adaptable animals and can survive in extreme temperatures -40°C to +50°C. A tiger's roar can travel upto 3 km. Tigers are the largest of all big cats in the world weighing upto 300 kg.
Global Tiger Day is celebrated on 29th July every year with this year’s theme, “Their survival is in our hands” as a way to protect the natural habitats of tigers, raise public awareness and support for tiger conservation issues for this magnificent but endangered big cat. This day is observed with much fervor and enthusiasm to build and develop a stronger bond between wildlife and people. The day was founded in 2010, when the 13 tiger range countries came together to create a Tx2 – 'Tigers times two' the global goal to double the number of wild tigers say, 6000 by 2022.
"Doubling tigers is about tigers, about the whole of nature - and it's also about us” - Marco Lambertini, the Director General WWF said. Tigers live in some of the most important but also most highly threatened habitats on the planet, where many of the most exceptional species thrive.
Left with just 5% of the range where they used to roam, tigers are losing their homes to deforestation, infrastructure, and other human disturbances, forcing them into rapidly diminishing pockets of nature. According to WWF, globally there are only 3890 tigers left. 95% of the tiger population went extinct since the beginning of the 20th century.
As per the latest tiger estimation report released by Prime Minister, India’s tiger population is 2967 tigers. This is about 60%, the highest number of tigers so far a country has globally. Because of the planned efforts under project tiger, India could attain the achievement after the country launched the initiative on the 1st April 1973. It has been one of the most successful ventures in recent times to protect the striped predator. The tiger population declined from 3642 in 1990 to just over 1411 in 2006. Since then, the Government has undertaken several steps to reduce the destruction of the tiger's natural habitat in the country. This project had the excellent recovery to increase the tiger population upto 2967 in 2020, almost in 51 tiger reserves across 17 Indian States. The Government also launched an anti-poaching force comprising of police, forest officials and other agencies.
The challenges for decline in tiger population are habitat loss–humans have cut down the forest areas for purposes like agricultural land, timber and create enough living spaces leading to a loss of 93% tiger’s natural habitat. Poaching & illegal trade of tigers happen as there is a huge demand for each body parts of tiger from whiskers to its tail. Man-animal conflict, the climate change–rising sea levels of Sunderbans etc. are wiping out the tiger population. None of the tiger conservation landscapes in India within the Bengal's tiger range are large enough to support an effective population size of 25.
With COVID-19 pandemic, families and communities are suffering and failing in many livelihood activities. This has also presented a number of unique challenges to tiger conservation. Priorities and funding from across have shifted in the immediate response for the pandemic.
(To be contd)