Let the tiger breathe in its natural home

Let the tiger breathe in its natural home
The world has been observing July 29 as International Tiger Day for the past three years, ever since heads of states of 13 countries met for a tiger summit at St Petersburg in 2010. All these countries have a significant tiger population, but India accounts for more than 50 per cent of the total tiger count. During the summit, it was pledged that the countries would work towards increasing the support for tiger conservation so as to double the world tiger population by 2022.

Now, with the present threat to biodiversity across the globe, is this a possible or an impossible goal? One could say the odds are in the tiger’s favour as it is a very resilient species. Which is evident from the fact that it manages to adapt itself to all kinds of climate and many types of habitat — from minus 40 degree Celsius of Siberia to plus 48 degree Celsius of Ranthambhore; from the rainforests of the north east, marshy mangroves of Sunderbans, arid zones of Rajasthan and high uplands of Bhutan.

The field director of Ranthambhore park, YK Sahu, always says that the tiger is also tolerant to the high disturbance of human beings in and around its habitat. Sahu demonstrates that with two examples — millions of pilgrims have been visiting a famous temple in Ranthambhore for scores of years now and the tiger has never created any trouble for any pilgrim. Second, recently a tiger showed amazing stamina when it traversed a distance of around 250 km from Ranthambhore in search of a habitat. It dodged many villages, farms and fields to cover such a long distance.

If such ability exists in this buoyant species, why then are these tiger countries worried for this creature? The reason is the growing human population and its never ending needs and demands. An interesting research published by Prof J Blandford estimated the size of global economy and the annual average individual consumption of 1000000 BC to 2000CE. According to Blandford, for 990,000 years, human beings were stagnant in their annual average individual consumption of around Rs 5,600. In 900 years, we further increased it to Rs 40,800. But in last 100 years, the consumption has swiftly increased, it went up to about Rs 3,92,400 in the year 2000.

Simultaneous to this, the tiger population chart of the last 100 years in India has decreased. It has come down from 40,000 to 1,706 tigers today while the global wild tiger population is left with just 3,200. The crux of this math is very simple, we human beings not only increased our number in the world, we also increased our consumption manifold! All the steel from mining is for our cars, cement for our houses, and energy for our use — these come from this earth. We have to dig up the homes of tigers, or for that matter the polar bear or panda’s, for maintaining this extravagant, unbalanced life style.

So, though we can increase tiger numbers to double with better management and planning, to increase tiger habitat in the same manner is very difficult. It is, therefore, up to you and me to work consciously to let the tiger breathe in its natural home. All it takes is lessening our unnecessary needs.

(The writer is a conservation biologist at Tiger Watch, Ranthambore)

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