Project Tiger, launched in 1973-74, is one of our most successful conservation projects in recent times. The project aims at tiger conservation in specially constituted ‘tiger reserves, which are representative of various bio-geographical regions within the country. Is committed to maintaining a viable population of tigers in the wild.
An estimate of the population of tigers in India at the turn of the century, placed the figure of 40,000. Subsequently, the first tiger census in India was conducted in 1972 revealed the existence of only 1827 tigers. various pressures in the second half of last century led to the gradual decrease in the desert, destroying vital habitat of the tiger. At the meeting of the IUCN General Assembly in New Delhi in 1969, serious concerns have been expressed about the threat to many species of wildlife and the shrinkage of natural areas of the country. In 1970 a national ban on tiger hunting was imposed in 1972 and the Wildlife Protection Act came into force. A task force was then established to formulate a plan for tiger conservation with an ecological approach.
The project was launched in 1973, and the tiger reserves were created in the country on a strategy of “core-buffer”. The main sectors were exempted from any kind of human activity and buffer zones have been subjected to “land use to conserve.” Management plans were developed for each tiger reserve, based on the principles set out below:
1. Elimination of all forms of human exploitation and biotic disturbance from the central and rationalization of activities in the buffer zone.
2. Restricting the habitat management only to repair the damage caused to the eco-system by human interference and the other in order to facilitate the recovery of the ecosystem to its natural state.
3. Monitor changes in flora and fauna over time and conduct research on wildlife.
Initially, 9 tiger reserves were established in different States during the period 1973-74, by pooling resources with the central government and the state. These nine reserves covered an area of about 13,017 sq.km-viz Manas (Assam), Palamau (Bihar), Similipal (Orissa), Corbett (UP), Kanha (MP), Melghat (Maharashtra), Bandipur (Karnataka) Ranthambhore (Rajasthan) and Sunderbans (West Bengal) tiger tours.
The project started as a ‘Central Sector Scheme “with the full support of the central government until 1979-1980: later to become a” center-sponsored Scheme of 1980 to 81, with a fair division of costs between the center and states.
The W.W.F. gave an aid of 1 million dollars in the form of equipment, the expertise and literature. The various states are also responsible for losses due to forgo registration in the reserves.
The main results of this project are excellent recovery of habitats and consequently an increase in population of tigers in the reserve areas, a simple 9268 reserves from 1972 to 1576 in 27 reserves in 2003. Tiger, being at the top of the food chain, can be considered as an indicator of the eco-system. For a viable tiger population, a habitat should possess a good prey base, which in turn depends on an undisturbed forest vegetation. Thus, ‘Project Tiger’, is essentially the conservation of eco-system as a whole, and apart from tigers, all other wild animals also increased in number in the project areas. In the following five-year plans, the main objective was to expand the buffer and core zones in certain reserves, intensification of protection and economic development in buffer zones of existing tiger reserves, creation of tiger reserves and strengthening further the activities research.
Management strategy has been to identify limiting factors and to mitigate the appropriate direction. The damage to the habitat needed to be corrected in order to facilitate the recovery of eco-system as much as possible. management practices that tend to push the wildlife populations beyond the carrying capacity of the habitat have been carefully avoided. A core minimum of 300 sq. km. with a buffer size has been recommended for each project area. The general administration of the project is monitored by a steering committee. The project comprises the governments of respective states. A “camp director is appointed for each reserve, which is assisted from the field and technical staff. The chief director of wildlife in the various states are responsible for the implementation on the ground. In the center, a true” director “of the project, coordinating work for the country.