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International Tiger Day: History, Reasons for Decline in Tiger Population and Ways to Save Them

Shivam Dwivedi
Shivam Dwivedi
International Tiger Day
International Tiger Day

Jungles contain a mysterious diversity of wildlife and all these are linked to Nature. So if anything bad happens to Nature, it automatically affect all species of that particular region. It is very shocking that the number of wild tigers has dropped by more than 95% since the beginning of the 20th century. 

Earlier, tigers used to roam freely across most of Asia and especially in South-Asian countries, but right now they are restricted to just 7% of their original range, in isolated forests and grasslands across 13 countries. 

Historical Background of International Tiger Day:

  • International Tiger Day or Global Tiger Day was first observed in the year 2010 at Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit in Russia to raise awareness about the decline of wild tiger numbers, leaving them in the brink of extinction and to augment the work of Tiger conservation. 

  • In this Summit, a declaration was agreed that Governments of tiger-populous countries had made promises to double the tiger population by 2020. They are also known as the “Umbrella Species” as their conservation also crucial for many other species in the same habitat.

  • Every year, numerous events are organized by various animal welfare organizations like World Wide Fund (WWF), International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and the Smithsonian Institute of USA.

Different Species of Tigers:

Bengal Tiger: Though Bengal tigers are found extensively in West Bengal of India. Other than that, it is also found in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal.

Siberian Tiger: These tigers live in icy conditions only. It is native to the Russian Far East, Northeast China, and possibly North Korea.

South China Tigers: This is one of the most endangered tiger sub-species and are more endangered than the Sumatran tigers.

Sumatran Tigers: These tigers belong to the largest cat family member and one of the most charismatic endangered species on the planet.

Indo-Chinese Tiger: They can be seen in several Asian Countries. Indochinese Tigers are found in Burma, Cambodia, China , Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.

Malaysian Tiger: Found only in the south of the Malay Peninsula.

International Tiger Day 2021: Theme & Significance 

  • This day is observed on 29 July of each year to raise the awareness about the decline in population of wild tigers and motivate the work of conservation of tiger with the theme “Their Survival is in Our Hands”.

  • The significance of this day can be gauged from the fact that currently, there are only 3890 wild tigers left globally, as per World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Despite many efforts by various governments in conserving tigers from the year 1970’s, the tiger population showed a rapid dip in number.

Why Tigers are So Important?

  • Being an apex predator in food-chain, tigers help to keep their environment healthy and lively. In the wildlife, it is the way things naturally work- the predators prey on other animals.

  • For instance, herbivores (plant-eaters) such as deer are primary consumers in food chain. But without enough tigers to eat them, herbivores can overgraze and damage the land resulting in the disruption of the balance of the local environment. 

  • As we know, local people also depend on a healthy environment for food, water and lots of other resources. Therefore, by protecting tigers we are also taking care of the places where they live, which is good for everyone in that particular area.

Reasons for Decrease in Tiger Population:

1. Habitat Loss:

  • The primary reason of decline in population of tiger is the loss of their natural habitat. Their habitats have encroached in a big way as humans have cut down the forest area to satisfy their needs only like agricultural lands, timber and create enough living space. This cutting of forest has led to a 93% loss of tigers’ natural habitat, hence lowering the chances of their survival. It has also led to the conflict between humans and tigers, competing for their own spaces.

  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) commissioned a study by Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to highlight how much of India’s forests in tiger habitats are really capable of supporting them. In case of Shivalik regions comprising Corbett National Park and other areas, only 20.34 per cent were found of capable of really holding the tigers. Remaining areas are too much degraded and under pressure from human activity. While, in central India, only 38.5 per cent could support tigers.

2. Prey Depletion:

  • This is the second biggest reason of tiger decline. As per the key findings from many years of study of tiger population have highlighted that in many sites, tigers decline in numbers are due to the prey depletion rather than being killed directly. 

  • In general, a healthy tiger needs to eat around 50 deer-sized animals or 6,600 pounds of living prey every year. Therefore, if prey-base is adequate and good protection measures are in place tiger populations thrives simply because the species breeds quickly.

 3. Poaching & Illegal Trade:

Due to the huge demand for each body part of the tiger from whiskers to its tail, poaching of tiger happens and this is also the reason of decline of tiger population.

4. Risk of Climate Change:

Rising sea levels due to global warming and other factors, the population of tigers are wiping out the Sundarbans and also damaging Mangrove trees, which is the largest tiger habitat of Royal Bengal Tigers.

Ways to Conserve Tigers:

In 1973, Project Tiger was initiated in India, which was a unique plan to save tigers on the planet. At that time, there were only 9 tiger reserves but after the Tiger Project coverage has increased to 51 right now.

Although, due to the conservation work and the commitment of our government the decline in global tiger numbers has halted surprisingly. India is home to 80 percent of tigers in the world and we have 51 Tiger reserves as of now.

Below are a few ways through which we can help conserve and improve the tiger population:

1. Conserve Natural Habitats:

Let us pledge not to cut down the forests for our needs. Let's help protect forests for saving the natural habitat of tigers.

2. Prefer Sanctuaries / Reservoirs to Zoo:

Wildlife Sanctuaries are bigger spaces and when amongst nature, tigers are much at home than being caged in a zoo. That's why we must encourage more sanctuaries and natural reservoirs to preserve biodiversity. Let us allow them live happily in their natural habitats and breed more and a number of them. Love and let the tiger live!

3. Control Climate Changes:

Lets us make our individual efforts to halt the climatic changes as much as possible as it would not be wise for us to make it from bad to worse. This sudden increase in heat is melting the ice, eventually raising the sea levels. 

We can't ignore the fact that tigers are the largest species of the Cat Family and also one of the most iconic animals on the Earth. About a century ago, there may have been over 1 Lakh tigers that roam on the planet but now their numbers have been significantly reduced (3890 only). That's why, there’s a lot more work to do to preserve & improve the numbers of one of our planet’s most iconic animal i.e Tiger.

Conclusion:

"Where Tigers Thrive, It is a Sign that the Ecosystem is Healthy". 

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