International Tiger Day

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    • International Tiger Day is celebrated every year on 29th July.

    About the Day

    • Origin: International Tiger Day was first celebrated in 2010 after it was found that 97% of all wild tigers had disappeared in the last century, with about only 3,000 of them remaining. 
    • Aim: To halt the numbers from worsening. Along with the preservation of these species, the day also aims to protect and expand their habitats. 

    Importance of Tigers 

    • India is home to over 70% of the tiger population globally.
    • Tigers, the top predators in the ecosystem, are vital in regulating and perpetuating ecological processes.
    • Ensuring the conservation of this top carnivore guarantees the wellbeing of forested ecosystems, the biodiversity they represent as well as water and climate security.
    • In India, tigers inhabit a wide variety of habitats ranging from the high mountains, mangroves swamps, and tall grasslands, to dry and moist deciduous forests, as well as evergreen forest systems. 
      • By virtue of this, the tiger is not only a conservation icon but also it is an umbrella species for the majority of the ecosystem in the Indian subcontinent.

    Factors for Extinction

    • With climate change, tigers are increasingly coming into conflict with humans. 
    • Poaching and the illegal trade industry is also very serious threat that wild tigers face. 
      • Demand for tiger bone, skin, and other body parts is leading to increased cases of poaching and trafficking. 
    • Another threat that has negatively impacted the tiger population is the loss of habitat
      • All across the world, a loss of tiger habitats is witnessed due to access routes, human settlements, timber logging, plantations, and agriculture. 
      • In fact, only about 7% of the original tiger habitats are still intact today. 
    • The lack of genetic diversity among tigers can lead to inbreeding in small populations. 

    Tiger Conservation Efforts  

    • Lidar-based survey technology: It is being used for the first time to deal with the challenge of human-animal conflict that was causing the death of animals.
      • Lidar is a method of measuring distance by illuminating the target with laser light and measuring the reflection with a sensor.
    • Official training: The National Tiger Conservation Authority has authorised official training to deal with emergencies arising due to tigers straying into human-dominated landscapes, tiger depredation on livestock and to work towards active rehabilitation of tigers.
      • National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a statutory body under the MoEFCC and was established in 2005 following the recommendations of the Tiger Task Force.
      • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has launched the M-STrIPES (Monitoring System for Tigers – Intensive Protection and Ecological Status), a mobile monitoring system for forest guards.
    • Policy and management: The major changes are made in the policy and management of tiger populations to fully implement provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 like
      • Tiger landscape conservation plans,
      • Designation and notification of inviolate critical core and buffer areas of tiger reserves.
      •  Identification and declaration of new tiger reserves.
      • Recognition of tiger landscapes and the importance of the corridors and their physical delineation at the highest levels of governance, and
      • Integrating tiger conservation with developmental activities using the power of reliable information in a Geographic Information System database.
    • Project Tiger: It is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
      • It provides central assistance to the tiger States for tiger conservation in designated tiger reserves. 
    • International Collaboration:
      • India has signed a protocol on the conservation of tigers with China and a Memorandum of Understanding with Bangladesh on the conservation of the Sundarbans. 
      • Also, the Cabinet has given the nod to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Myanmar to combat timber trafficking and conservation of tigers and other wildlife
      • Besides bilateral engagements are being carried out with Bhutan, Nepal and Cambodia. 
      • The Government of Guatemala has solicited collaboration with the Govt. of India to safeguard their Jaguar population
      • A tripartite, institute level has been signed between the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and the A. N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences for tiger conservation.
    • 2022: Year of The Tiger:
      • The WWF aims to double the number of wild tigers in 2022.

    Challenges

    • Genetic Drift: Small and isolated populations face a high probability of extinction as small populations are subject to chance/random events. These chance events may cause them to lose advantageous genetic variants, while other, detrimental genetic variants might increase in frequency. This process is called genetic drift
    • Inbreeding Depression: Individuals in small populations are more likely to be related, leading to inbreeding. This exposes the many slightly disadvantageous genetic variants that are present in all genomes. When expressed together, the detrimental genetic variants cause inbreeding depression and reduced survival and reproduction of inbred individuals.
    • Traffic Roads: The presence of built-up areas and high traffic roads greatly impeded tiger movement.
    • Development projects: Impact of impending development projects in central India — widening of certain highways, for instance, would increase extinction substantially. 

    Way Ahead

    • India should remain committed to ensuring safe habitats for its tigers.
    • Special attention is needed for populations that are becoming isolated and facing the genetic consequences of such isolation. 
    • Novel genome sequencing technology provides an opportunity to understand tigers much better in the context of their conservation. 
    • The future of tigers will require a ‘dialogue’ between such data and management strategies in order to ensure their survival. 

    Source: TH