By Lakshay Kewalramani
1,00,000 Tigers were killed in India between 1850 and 1950 and there have been 115 tiger deaths in 2017. Tigers are indiscriminately killed through poisoning by the locals or authorities, shooting by the forest guards, poaching etc.
According to Mr. Valmik Thapar (former member of Tiger Task Force 2005), if Tigers are to be saved, it is imperative that the villages located in and around tiger reserves be removed altogether. In the alternate, we continue to lose tigers to human–tiger conflicts. The current count of Tigers as per the 2014 census in the wild being 2226 approximately may sound better than the past, but status quo is not satisfactory by any means. A closer look at the problems associated with Tigers and the way they are treated reveals more than the statistics.
According to Mr. Valmik Thapar, who has reviewed the accounts of more than 10,000 successful tiger hunts over a hundred years, the highest known individual score is 1,100 by the Maharaja of Surguja. From the mid 19th to 20th century, the British dominated tiger hunting in India. As many as 337 Tigers lost their lives in and outside various reserves in India in the last few years i.e. 2002-2012. These big cats died due to poaching etc. 43 Tigers were found dead in 2013, 50 in 2016 and so on. These statistics show the gross apathy of the Ministry of Forest, Environment, and Climate Change.
LEGAL PROVISIONS TO PROTECT TIGERS AND OTHER ANIMALS
Killing tigers is cruel, barbaric, and against the provisions of Section 9 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. According to this provision, killing any animal is prohibited except in cases when the animal has been declared too dangerous, or for education, research, and scientific management. It is also ultra vires the provisions of Articles 48A & 51A(g) of the Constitution of India. Relying on these Articles, the Supreme Court has held that the State and the citizens are under a fundamental obligation to protect and improve the environment, including forests, lakes, rivers, and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures.
ABUSE OF LAW
Despite these legal provisions, locals and other groups carry out mass killings of the big cats. Around 384 Tigers have been killed in the last ten years on account of only poaching.  The number goes up if we count the killings due to poisoning by the villagers in the surrounding areas and by forest guards appointed solely to protect the Tigers of the wild.
There are also reports of villagers utilizing their knowledge of the forests and movements of the tigers and prey to aid poachers. The forest guards who were trained and armed under ‘Project Tiger II’ in early 2000’s to protect the Tigers from poachers have also been found responsible for death of the Tigers in India in recent times.
SOLUTIONS TO PROTECT TIGERS AND OTHER WILD ANIMALS
Decreasing number of Tigers, or any other animal with low population, can have very serious ecological problems like increase in prey population, sex-ratio imbalance, possibilities of endangerment or extinction etc. It can be solved by adopting certain mechanisms and covering them in the national policy. First, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change and the National Board of Wildlife should issue directions to relocate the villagers and tribals who are settled in the core area, corridors, and buffer zones of the tiger reserves. The relocated villagers should be provided sufficient employment through tourism or other means to ensure their adequate livelihood.
According to the Park Authorities of Sariska, besides the 11 villages in the core, there are 12 villages inside the Sanctuary and five more within the reserve – 28 in all, within Sariska’s 881 sq. k.m. area. The villagers should be removed from the core area and must be relocated at some other place with sufficient employment so that there is no co-existence between tigers and villagers.
Further, there is a need to relocate tigers from tiger reserves where the density of Alpha-Male Tigers is higher to tiger reserves where such density is lower to prevent conflicts between two Alpha-Male Tigers resulting in their deaths.
Another possible policy measure is establishing breeding programs in which tigers are kept in enclosed areas and are bred to produce tiger cubs. The main aim of this program is to increase tiger population in India’s tiger reserves and to conserve animals that are endangered or threatened in the wild so that the species does not become extinct.
(The author is a 4th year student pursuing a B.A. LL.B. course from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi.)
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