The Project Tiger was initiated on 1st April, 1973 by the Indian Board of Wildlife in Corbett National Park. The number of tigers in 1910 was estimated to have been 40,000, which dwindled to 4,000 in 1953, 2,000 in 1964 and only 1,827 in 1972.
Alarm bells rang and in 1970 a national ban on tiger hunting was imposed and in 1972 the Wildlife Protection Act came into force. A ‘Task Force‘ was then set up to formulate a scheme for tiger conservation and Project Tiger was launched in 1973 to protect this species. After this the number started increasing gradually. However, in recent years owing to habitat destruction and poaching the number has again started to go down.
Initially 9 tiger reserves were established in different States during the period 1973-74, covering an area of about 16,339 sq. km and with a population of 268 tigers in Manas (Assam), Palamau (Bihar), Simlipal (Orissa), Corbett (U.P.), Kanha (M.P.), Melghat (Maharashtra), Bandipur (Karnataka), Ranthambhore (Rajasthan) and Sunderbans (West Bengal). At present there are 27 tiger reserves covering an area of 37761 sq. km. and with a population of 1498 tigers.
The population of tigers in the country has increased significantly to about 4000 from less than 2000 at the time of launch of the project. The main aim of Project Tiger was to create a safe haven and ideal environmental conditions for the survival and growth of tigers and its prey species. The factors identified for decline in Tiger population included habitat destruction, forestry disturbance, loss of prey, poaching and competition with local villagers and domestic animals.
Tiger Reserves were constituted on a ‘core-buffer’ strategy in which core area is kept free of biotic disturbances and forestry operations, where collection of forest produce, grazing and human disturbances are not allowed. However, the buffer zone is treated as a ‘multiple use area’, which supports spill over population of wild animals from the core area but also provides for specific eco-developmental resources to the surrounding villages. The following three principles are observed while managing tiger reserves:
1. Elimination of all forms of human exploitation and biotic disturbances from the core area and rationalization of activities in the buffer zone.
2. Restricting the habitat management to repair of damage done to the ecosystem by human interference so as to facilitate recovery of the ecosystem.
3. Monitoring the faunal and floral changes over time and carrying out research about wildlife.
GLOBAL TIGER FORUM
The establishment of the Global Tiger Forum was a major recommendation of the Delhi Declaration adopted at the International Symposium on the Tiger held at New Delhi from 22-24 February 1993, which has the following objectives:
According to the 2010 tiger census carried out by the Wildlife Institute of India, declared in March 2011, there are approx. 1,706 tigers in the country which includes 70 in the marshes of Sunderbans.
In 2006, there were 1411 tigers but in 2010 the population has risen to 1706 tigers, which is a 12% increase in the tiger populatiion.
Tiger occupancy area
In the year 2006, 9 million hectare forest area was occupied by tigers but by 2010 the tiger occupancy area has been reduced to 7.5 million hectares, which is apparently by deforestation.