Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi drew applause when he spoke of the successes achieved in the southern Indian city of Mysuru on Sunday. Officials and staff from several of the country’s largest tiger reserves were in attendance.
India is a country where protecting nature is part of our culture. This is why we have had so many unique successes in nature conservation,” Modi said at the celebration of the project’s 50th anniversary.
Modi has also launched a new project, the International Big Cat Alliance, which will focus on the conservation of the tiger, lion, cheetah, snow leopard, puma, jaguar and cheetah.
When India began Project Tiger in 1973, only about 1,800 specimens remained in the country. The program focused on establishing reserves for tigers without human presence so as not to disturb the animals. Today, India’s tiger population — the largest in the world — numbers more than 3,000 individuals, according to new figures.
However, many indigenous groups have criticized the model for forcing communities that have existed in the forests for thousands of years to relocate.
– We have lost all rights to visit our land, our temples and even collect honey from the forest. How can we continue to live like this? asks JA Shivu, who belongs to the Jenu Kuruba ethnic group from South India.
Only one percent of India’s indigenous people have their land rights secured, despite a 2006 law that would protect the indigenous people of the country’s primeval forests.
– By tradition, we always put wildlife before humans, says Vidya Athreya of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which studies the interaction between big cats and humans.
He believes the only way to protect wildlife is to connect with communities.
The tiger (Panthera tigris) is the largest of the wild cats. It lives only in Asia, with the subspecies spreading from Russian Siberia to the rainforests of Indonesia.
In addition to the six subspecies living today, there are also three extinct subspecies: the Javan tiger, the Caspian tiger, and the Balinese tiger. The Siberian tiger was also on the verge of extinction, but has recovered to some extent.
Wild tigers are found today in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia and China.
It can reach more than three meters in length and weigh up to 300 kilograms.
The tiger is classified as endangered. Over the past 100 years, the number of tigers in the wild has declined dramatically – from 100,000 to at least 3,200 a decade ago. Thanks to significant international investment and hard work from environmental and animal rights organizations, the trend has reversed and tiger numbers are now increasing in several places.
Source: World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
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