March 28th, 2011 18:52 EST
India's Tigers on the Rise
India`s latest tiger census shows an increase in the numbers of the endangered big cat. The census counted at least 1, 706 tigers in forests across the country, about 300 more than four years ago. Wildlife experts who conducted the census said tiger corridors, routes frequently used by the big cats to move from one reserve to another, had declined sharply due to human conflict.
Unlike earlier tiger estimates, when pugmarks of individual tigers were counted, this time round conservationists used hidden cameras and DNA tests to count the cats in 17 Indian states where tigers live in the wild.
The census included 70 tigers in the eastern Indian Sunderbans Tiger Reserve, which had not been counted in the last census in 2007. The latest count measures to about an increase of about 16 percent. A century ago, about 100,000 tigers roamed India`s forests.
Shrinking habitats have brought the wild cats into conflict with farmers who live near tiger reserves and poachers who kill them for pelts and body parts, highly prized in traditional Chinese medicine. The release of the latest tiger census results coincided with the start of a three-day international conference to follow up on progress made at the 2010 St. Petersburg summit of 13 countries that are home to wild tigers.
As an aspiring wildlife professional, I have to admit there is little to celebrate, because in countries like fast growing India, like the rest of Asia and much of Africa, the loss of habitat is what is destroying wildlife and putting nature at risk of destruction. Many of the richest areas in biodiversity and wildlife occur in high population areas with high levels of poverty.
It`s obvious there are no easy answers. But what is clear is that there is no organization properly addressing the difficult topic of preserving nature and wildlife while significantly addressing the needs of the human populations in the areas at risk. Conservation organizations are businesses, interested in their own self promotion.
It is no different than issues related to animal cruelty, where a host of people and organizations have made fortunes marketing themselves as the answer to animal cruelty, while offering nothing but feel good, band aid at best ineffective programs. Animals (domestic or wildlife) have few if any true advocates and defenders.