Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan today said India is still battling with poachers to conserve tigers in the country, but expressed hope that with collective effort, the number of big cats in the country would be doubled in the next five years. India is currently home to 70 per cent of the world’s tiger population in over 17 states and 50 sanctuaries across the country.
“We are still fighting against the poachers on a war footing. They (poachers) are foiling all our techniques. They develop techniques to overpower our systems. This is a big fight,” Vardhan said. “We had over 1 lakh tigers a century ago, now are happy with just 2,226,” the minister said on the occasion of World Tiger Day.
India is a part of the St Petersburg target, commonly referred to as the global wildlife conservation goal TX2, which aims to double the tiger numbers in the participating countries by 2022. “Once the country is together in conserving tigers, we can achieve the target of doubling the tiger population by 2022,” he said.
He said that it is a moral duty to conserve what the ancestors gave us and it can be achieved by involving our children into the process of tiger conservation. Vardhan said that tiger-bearing forests play a mitigative role in combating climate change, besides the value of ecosystem services.
He emphasised that the tiger is a symbol of a healthy environment and there can be no let-up in conservation efforts, as threats to the big cats remain ever persistent. The minister pointed out that the target of doubling the tiger population by 2022 in St Petersburg Declaration is a moderate target, but even to achieve that, countries have to be repeatedly reminded to conserve tigers.
“Tiger conservation should be carried out every moment of the day and not celebrated merely as a one-day event,” he said. The minister said that Indians have love for animals in their DNA and emphasised that protection of tigers would mean protection of the ecosystem.
He lauded the Uttarakhand government for an increase in the number of tigers the state to 242. Director General of Forests Siddhanta Das said that there has been a 30 percent increase in the number of tigers in the country so far.
Forest ministers of Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Assam, Chattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Telangana were also present at the event organised by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and the National Tiger Conservation Authority to celebrate the Global Tiger Day.
Bollywood actor Randeep Hooda also attended the event along with the members of the Global Tiger Forum and World Wildlife Fund-India.
“Lack of awareness leads to conflict between development and conservation. These two can co-exist like in Panna and Sariska tiger reserve,” Hooda said. A radio jingle, which would be aired on All India Radio, was launched along with a collection of all tiger-related questions asked in parliament in the last five years.
Meanwhile, the World Wildlife Fund-India said the tiger deaths in India by poaching reached an all time high in 2016. There are 13 Tiger Range Countries (TRC), including India, in the world where tigers roam free, but the big cats continue to remain endangered.
The heads of governments of TRCs, have resolved to strive to double the number of wild tigers (TX2) by 2022 and adopted the St Petersburg Resolution on tiger conservation. A Protocol for conducting security and audit of Tiger Reserves was released by Vardhan.
He also presented the Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CA/TS) accreditation award to the Lansdowne Forest Division of Uttarakhand, which met the managerial standards for effective conservation of Tigers.
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