The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has a website that is entitled Project Tiger (new page). The reason why I visited it was because I noticed a press release (not from the NTCA website) that said a drastic change in method was to be employed by the NTCA in its management of 11 tiger reserves of India. All the reserves combined cover an area of 37,761 Km².
The embarrassment of losing all the tigers of the most prestigious reserve at Sariska-Panna to poaching (this is now more or less accepted as being the cause of the loss) and the further embarrassment of introducing breeding tigers that are related (this is yet to be confirmed for one of the tigers, a male, but it looks likely) and which are unfit for breeding has caused what is being described as a knee jerk reaction in deciding to coral the remaining tigers in 11 reserves to protect them and force them to breed.
As few as 5-15 tigers are in each of these reserves. This seems an impossibly low figure. How do they prevent inbreeding with resultant genetic defects and poor sperm quality? (See cat inbreeding means poor sperm quality). I guess they ship fresh stock in but it with such low populations in all these reserves is this viable.
The plan was forced on the National Tiger Conservation Authority. But it seems to me, a layperson, that at a certain point in time the cause is almost lost and that moment would seem to be fast approaching.
The press release page on the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s website is dated August 5th 2005. No that is not a typo. It is 2005 almost 4 years ago. Not much happening then! I was expecting to see a press release about this latest project but nothing on the website. The news came from timesofindia.indiatimes.com.
A toxic mix of the following is admitted on the NTCA website to be causing tiger losses:
- human population growth
- poor management – Sariska: breakdown in internal park management and a faulty system to count the tigers! And breakdown in the relationship between villagers on the reserve and management of the reserve.
- habitat destruction on the reserves - mining
- no or little protection for the tiger
- despite CITES classification tigers are poached almost to order it seems, with some people thinking the wardens are involved. Tiger bone gets a mention on the website. As at 2003 (I believe) trade in tiger body parts was increasing particularly bones. The price: 10 grams for US$ 24.5 at the China/Vietnam border. The NTCA site says that trade in tiger body parts was permitted in Japan until 4-2000. They admit to difficulties in controlling illicit trade. This can probably be translated to mean very little enforcement of CITES exists.
- a lack of vigour in relocating people on the reserves to avoid human/tiger conflict. Over 30 years, only 80+ villages have been relocated from all the 28 reserves. 1,500 remain inside the reserves and 250 of them are in core areas of tiger reserves.
- tiger persecuted on a number of levels
Really, I am sorry to say that the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s website looks as lifeless as the body of the poached tigers. I suspect very little or nothing has happened on the site for years. Even large parts of the navigation bar do not work. This is indicative of the general malaise surrounding the management of the Bengal tiger I feel and I am sorry to sound critical but it is so sad and depressing.
The website should be much more active. If someone asked me I’d do the work!! – for free, of course.