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International Tiger Day: PM Modi Flaunts Spike in Big Cats in India, But What Are the Challenges?

© Sputnik / Natalya Seliverstova / Go to the photo bankTiger
Tiger - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.07.2021
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In 2010, thirteen countries including India, Bangladesh, and China that have tiger ranges participated in the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit in Russia. The meeting aimed to raise awareness about tiger protection amid fears the magnificent big cat species will face extinction. During the meeting, July29th was declared "International Tiger Day".
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday stated that the country, which houses over 70 percent of the global tiger population, is committed to ensuring safe habitats for the members of the big cat family in the future as well. 
The country, which is home to over 3,000 tigers, achieved double digit growth in their numbers before the target year of 2022, India's former Environment Minister Prakash Javedkar revealed last year. 
On the occasion of International Tiger Day, Prime Minister Modi made a series of tweets that he posted along with pictures of the animals.
As part of the Tiger Day celebrations in the country, school students and dwellers of rural regions located around forests usually come together with forest officials to participate in awareness drives. Competitions such as essay writing, drawing, painting, and speeches are organised to keep "tigers" in focus.
Speaking to Sputnik, Harendra Bargali, the deputy director of the national animal welfare group The Corbett Foundation said other countries that still have tigers must observe the steps taken by India to preserve and grow the species.
"Other countries will have to show the same level of willingness and dedication as India has shown so far".
He said these nations must figure out feasible measures to combat the challenges India has faced.
"The top three were strictly curbing poaching, protection of corridors adjoined with areas of human activities like highways, and educating the rural communities living near the jungles about tiger conservation so that the animals are not ruthlessly killed in case of an encounter", Bargali stated. 
"Even for India, though there is an increase in tiger population, the main challenge is to 'manage' the tigers, protect critical corridors in human-dominated landscapes outside protected areas and mitigate human-tiger conflict without getting anybody hurt", he added. 
Steps Taken by Indian Forest Officers Amid COVID Cases in Lions and Tigers
A furore erupted last year when COVID cases in Indian zoos and forests began affecting the country's lions and tigers. Their existence brings in a significant amount of tourism revenue for India. 
Forest officers across India's tiger reserves took drastic measures to ensure that jungle tourism remains active, without risking a virus outbreak in the forests. 
"No tourists, drivers, or guides were allowed to venture inside the forests without having masks on. In addition, we put disinfected water at the entries of the forests so that when tourist vehicles entered the forest area, their tyres would be sanitised", Satiram Ulke, a forest ranger at the Pench Tiger Reserve told Sputnik. 
"Further, these little spots for refreshments inside the forests were either shut down or were strictly monitored to avoid human gathering. These were some steps we took to make sure our animals were safe from the virus since only little is known about how COVID infects the cat family", he added. 
A 10-year-old male tiger in the central Indian forest of Pench succumbed to "respiratory issues" last year that alerted officials. 

Expand Forests and Animal Numbers at Equal Rate: Expert

As signs of global warming intensify worldwide, forest experts in India have warned nations with healthy flora and fauna varieties to focus on making up for the decline in forest cover. They fear that natural and man-made catastrophes like floods and forest fires are likely to further alter the face of conservation efforts in the coming years. 
In April 2021, a report by Global Forest Watch claimed that India lost nearly 38,500 hectares of tropical forest between 2019 and 2020.
Vandana Pandey, a former human-animal conflict mitigation officer with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) noted that increasing the population of tigers in India could turn out badly if the forest regions of the nation are also not allowed to expand at the same rate. 
"Apex predators like tigers are extremely territorial. An increase in tiger population and decline in their natural habitat is doomed to cause straying of not only young and inexperienced tigers but also co-predators like leopards and sloth bears into human habitations, leading to human-wildlife conflict", Pandey said. 
The growing tiger population can be sustained not only by the concentrated efforts of wildlife biologists and scientists but through the collective effort of each and every citizen of our country, the former WTI official said. 
Pandey also highlighted that while humans are not meant to share their living spaces with animals like tigers but, "we certainly share the resources of their habitats".
Around a century ago, over 100,000 tigers roamed in the Asian lands while more thrived in parts of Bali, Java and Turkey among other countries. Years of poaching tigers for their skin, teeth and bones led to a critical exhaustion of tiger reserves worldwide.
As per a research report by WorldWildlifeDay.Org, tigers no longer live in 96 percent of their historic range and much of this decline has occurred in the past decade.
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