With 30 per cent increase in its tiger population as a result of its conservation efforts, India plans to add ten more tiger reserves to the existing 49, a senior Indian official has said.
“There has been a 30 per cent increase in India’s wild tiger population, with the country’s 2,226 tigers, representing 70 per cent of the global population of this endangered species,” Bishan Singh Bonal, Assistant Director of Tiger Conservation with the Government of India, told the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species being hosted in Johannesburg.’
Future plans include adding ten more tiger reserves to the current 49 in 18 states, he said.
Bonal also explained the economic benefits of the tiger conservation project for the animals, local populations and the environment since it was launched in 1973.
“Tiger reserves conserve forest stock in some of India’s highly dense forests.
“The monetary benefits from ecosystem services is to the tune of (up to) Rs 17.6 billion annually Every rupee invested yields a benefit of up to Rs 530,” he said.
Bonal said India’s tiger conservation efforts were centered on countering the ever-increasing conflict between wildlife conservation and human settlements.
This was part of the mission of the project in order to protect tigers and their habitat while maintaining a balance between conservation and development activities.
Addressing livelihood interests of local people in areas surrounding Tiger Reserves included the relocation of 11,188 families from 169 villages, with another 56,482 families from 751 villages due to be moved as well.
Challenges highlighted by Bonal included the fact that Tiger Reserve areas in India are small with huge biotic pressures on them; as well as illegal trade in animal parts and products such as tiger skins, elephant tasks and rhino horn.
Modern tools used to help fight poaching include drones, electronic surveillance and radio collaring of tigers.
Bonal said India had concluded bilateral understandings on conservation with its neighbours China, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Russia.