Green Minute News
Renowned tiger biologist and founder and managing trustee, Centre for Wildlife Studies D K Ullas Karanth questions the need for celebrations on International Tiger Day. And he says, “In our country, which has enough habitat to support at least 10,000 tigers, the government is now ‘celebrating’ the increase of tiger numbers from 2000 in 1970 to 3000, after 50 years of expensive efforts. Worse still, it now believes only we can only have 3500 tigers. If this is all we can do, what is there to celebrate?”
Why are we spending so much money with such fanfare? As to the all-India tiger survey report released Tuesday, these figures are just a rehash of the same scientifically discredited figures released some months ago. Only difference is, the weak signals are now drowned in even more noise in the form of glossy pictures and needless jargon.
The substantial recovery of wild tigers took place in India between 1974-2000, against all odds, thanks to the hard work of dedicated foresters and conservationists, under the leadership of a determined Prime Minister. “We are mainly harvesting fruits of their labour. In terms of policies and conservation actions, there has been no change after 2005 when the Tiger Task Force made its largely impractical and ineffective recommendations.”
The UPA-1 government started investing money heavily, but not smartly, based on these. The same policies were continued under UPA-2, with even more flow of misdirected funding. Surprisingly the same approach has been continued by the NDA government after 2014.
NEGLECTING LARGE HABITATS
Karanth stresses, “Excessive funding of a few reserves, neglect of large areas in potential tiger habitats, poor progress on village relocations in most states (except Madhya Pradesh and to some extent, Maharashtra) have all continued unchanged. Another feature of this government monopoly has been the lack of data transparency and shunning of rigorous independent science.”
NTCA SHOULD BE WOUND UP
The country needs a new vision to find a way out of this quagmire: the role of the forest bureaucracy should be restricted to law enforcement. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) should be wound up and its mandates merged with other central schemes for wildlife. The vast talent and energy of the rest of Indian society should be drawn into all other domains of tiger conservation by proactively involving private enterprises, local communities, non-governmental sectors and scientific institutions.
Tiger Conservation needs a total reboot, if history is to judge us kindly, Dr Ullas Karanth concludes.