Photographer: Shivang Mehta
The Bengal tiger, also well known as India’s national animal, has experienced a significant decrease in population since 1900. The population was once 100,000, but that number was reported to only be 1,411 in 2006. The species that once ruled over India and the rest of southeastern Asia had earned itself a spot on the endangered animals list due to habitat destruction and poaching by humans.
However, within the past decade, India has put forward their best efforts to help conserve the wild Bengal tiger population as it grew aware of the dwindling number of the species. In 2006, India, along with other world leaders, pledged to double the tiger population by 2022. Since then, the population has increased to nearly 3,000 as of the 2018 estimate. The population has more than doubled four years earlier than planned.
How has India managed to achieve this? There are now over 50 tiger reserves scattered throughout the country dedicated to protecting the habitats and lives of the beloved animal. Multiple conservation initiatives have been implemented by India, the most important being managing and protecting all of these tiger reserves. People can pay to visit these reserves and watch the beautiful creatures from a distance.
India’s largest reserve is the Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve. The reserve is nearly 1,500 square miles in area, and is mostly composed of hills and forests that make up the tiger’s natural habitat. The reserve has a population of 110 tigers as of September 2016, holding a large portion of India’s tigers. Some reserves hold as much as 200 tigers, while others have lost all of their tigers.
Despite a large goal being achieved in saving the tiger population, they still aren’t safe. The lives of the tigers are threatened everyday by human activities such as illegal poaching, deforestation, and overgrazing. Tigers are poached by many for their meat and body parts. Even if a tiger accidentally come into contact with groups of humans, their lives are threatened. In July 2019, a tiger wandered into a village and attacked nine villagers. As a result, the tiger was beaten to death out of self defense. A video of this went viral, and the rest of India was outraged. Alongside tigers, India’s population has also grown. More people are living in India’s rural areas, taking up more space that could be roamed by wild tigers.
According to Penny Banham, an officer of Born Free conservation projects, “Reducing human-tiger conflict, ending poaching, improving habitat quality and connectivity and increasing prey numbers across India and beyond will be vital in the success and perpetuity of tigers”. Wild tigers, for the past few decades, have been forced to compete with humans for the forests they thrive in. Humans have also been hunting and killing tiger prey, making hunting for food a bigger challenge for tigers.
Tigers, of course, are not the only animals threatened by human activity. We also act as a threat for the endangered pandas, blue whales, elephants, leopards, otters, sea turtles, polar bears, and even more. Three subspecies of the tiger have even gone extinct in recent years. Tigers are still critically endangered and threatened along with plenty of other wildlife, and humans still need to make large changes if we want to keep them alive. However, the increase in India’s tiger population demonstrates that with enough effort, patience, and compassion, differences can be made by us.