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Tiger is one of the majestic animals of India. It is belongs to the big cat family. It is a carnivore and usually lives and hunts alone unlike the lions which hunt in groups. India had millions of tigers since time immemorial. During ancient and medieval times the amount of forests which India had and their size was also vast. They were dense too with water bodies thick long grass and green foilage too. India has different kinds of bio reserves and it has more than 12 of the ones which are there in the world.
Despite the varied climate and the different types of forests like the ones in the Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats, Nallamala Forests, Periyar, the Sunderbans, Ranthanbore, Nilgiri, Nandan Kanang, Kaziranga, Uttaranchal, Gir etc. Tigers can be found almost in all the forest areas in India has more than 60 tiger reserves. Tigers like to adopt to varied climates and their range of travel would be easily around more than 70 kilometers. The also migrate from one forest to another too. They also fight for territories as they are territorial by nature and would like to guard their spaces against any new entrant. They are much feared and respected for their power in India. They are also considered a source of strength and power and are also depicted as being the vehicles of Gods and Goddesses.
Earlier the popular of humans was limited and forests were big now unfortunately the situation has reversed. Humans are encroaching the forest areas and are building roads, railway tracks, jungle tourist resorts, Ashrams are also being constructed near the forest areas so are construction of concrete structures which are ever growing due to the manifold increase in the human population. This put a pressure on the forests, its wildlife and its eco system. Which forces the wild life to come out of their areas leading to man animal conflicts. Here the unfortunate thing to observe is it is man who is the perpetrator and and wildlife just a victim as its place has been occupied by humans. Sometimes it so happens that due to droughts or low rainfall leading to lack of water in the forests as water bodies dry up wildlife tends to come out of the forest too.
India is basically dependent on the monsoons for rainfall and it is these which sustain the water bodies like rivers, their tributaries, lakes, ponds and water holes etc. and the forests too. During some years the monsoon is erratic and this leads to disturbance in the environment and ecosystem. Which in turn results migration of wildlife. From the forest to the outside in search of food and water and better habitats to live in. A good monsoon means lot of growth among different species of flora and fauna. This in effect provides abundant prey to the predators and there will be proper growth in the food chain which will sustain life in the forest.
Tiger being the main predator is helpful in preserving the forests, ecosystems and other wildlife too. If we remove the tiger there will be large scale growth in other animal population and that in effect will disturb the food chain leading to uncontrolled growth of other animals in the food chain. This will prove to be a disaster to the forest as a whole as more deer will lead to overgrazing and damage to the top soil of the forests. Similarly growth of other animals like leopards and other population will lead to killing of more deer thus leading to reduction in deer population. An increase in the amount of rat population will lead to damage to forests and the the soil leading to reduction to growth of trees and thus destruction of habitat due to flash floods, soil erosion and other such environmental impact which cause long term damage to forests.
Earlier the kings used to hunt wildlife and so did few tribes who subsisted on the fringes of the forest. Over the period of times these hunts increased and it did have some effect on the population of the tigers and other wildlife. But the coming of the British and the rifles lead to large scale trophy hunting and many of the tigers, leopards, deer and other wildlife were killed from the beginning of the twentieth century till the time India attained independence from the British in 1947. At that time the number of tigers was a reduced lot and there was not much thrust on the part of the government towards the environment and forests as being a new country the focus was on rebuilding the Indian Economy which was in shambles. Later in the 1970 ‘s new laws were enforced and more teeth given to existing laws to protect forests and wildlife.
But this had not much impact as the population of the country increased exponentially and put pressure on forest lands which were occupied and used for the purpose of development and nation building. This had a cost as the number of tigers and other wildlife reduced and continued to do so leading to a few thousand tigers at present which is a sad reflection of the state of affairs. The government is doing its best but it is not enough and a lot more needs to be done. Campaigns like “Save the Tiger Campaign” were launched a “Save The Tiger Task Force” was also launched. Many tiger reserves were also created which have been named above. But all these effects are commendable a still more needs to be done.
Some of the problems being faced by the authorities and the environmentalists are problems of poachers who are well armed and come in gangs. These poachers are aware of the terrain well and end up killing many animals. They also sell the body parts in the illegal wildlife trade market which is a huge business worldwide and many of the buyers are in the so called developed countries. Till the time this demand from these buyers is the there tigers face the risk of elimination. There are chances of the tigers getting extinct too in a few a years if proper steps are not taken.
The number of people who are staffed in the forest department is very less compared to the area they have to monitor to protect the tigers. Some of the methods being adopted to kill the tigers and other wildlife are food poisoning, use of metal clamps, snares, using weapons like guns and in some places due to man animal conflict lynching of the tigers or leopards also take place as someone in the village has been killed by the wild animals sometimes even cattle get killed too. In some unfortunate cases there are cases of burning them too by angry villagers. Awareness is the only way to stop the problem of man animal conflict and where required law of the land should come into play to protect wildlife.
Almost all parts of the tigers are traded in the international illegal wildlife trade market. Parts like Skin, bones, nails, genitals, eyes, meat, blood, paws and powder of bones etc. are all in great demand in the international marked. They are used for the purpose of fashion accessories in the fashion industry, used as Chinese medicines, religious purposes, claws and some other parts are worn as lockets. There is a big industry of quackery which is running which also uses these parts for the purpose of medicines and cure which is nothing but rubbish. Whiskers of the tigers are also used in religious purposes.
With these sort of humans one really fears for the tigers future. Governments all over the world have to come together and collectively put a stamp on these sort of activities because only when the buying stops will the killing too. It is better to leave the tigers and other wildlife alone in the forests as they can in a single handed way restore the forests. Which humans are incapable of. Governments of India has done a lot but it is insufficient and more is expected to be done if the tiger needs to survive. We owe it to our future generations to handover what we received from our elders as it is. So that they can have an environment which will sustain them and their livelihoods too.