NEW DELHI — India’s wild tiger population has surpassed 3,000, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Sunday, as the government ramped up conservation efforts and established the International Big Cat Alliance to conserve the endangered animal.
After the natural population, estimated at roughly 40,000 at the time of independence from Britain in 1947, was found to have dropped to around 1,800, India launched a landmark conservation initiative known as Project Tiger in 1973 to rehabilitate the country’s diminishing number of big cats.
According to the 2022 tiger census, issued on the 50th anniversary of Project Tiger, India’s tiger population has nearly doubled in the decades since to 3,167 as of Sunday.
“India has the world’s largest tiger range,” Modi remarked during a memorial event in the southern Indian city of Mysuru. “Project Tiger’s success has been an achievement not only for India, but for the entire world.”
When officials discovered that India’s tigers were on the verge of extinction, Project Tiger began implementing anti-poaching measures and relocating human habitation and villages from woods, while also expanding and upgrading tiger reserves and buffer zones.
The wild tiger population in India is by far the greatest in the world, and the success of Project Tiger has led to conversations with Cambodia about helping to restore the big cat population there, which was wiped out by poaching and hunting.
Modi, who launched the worldwide Big Cat Alliance, stated that a worldwide alliance can help to improve tiger conservation efforts.
“Wildlife protection is a global issue, not a national one,” he stated. “The International Big Cat Alliance’s primary goal will be to conserve the world’s seven major big cats, which include the tiger, lion, leopard, snow leopard, puma, jaguar, and cheetah.”
Years of intense killing and habitat loss in India had not only drastically reduced tiger numbers, but also resulted in the local extinction of cheetahs in 1952.
Project Cheetah, a related conservation project, was begun last September to reintroduce the world’s fastest land animal to the South Asian country. The first eight cheetahs arrived from Namibia, followed by another 12 from South Africa.
“Cheetahs had been extinct in India for decades.” “From Namibia and South Africa, we brought magnificent big cats,” Modi remarked. “A few days ago, four gorgeous cubs were born in Kuno National Park. Cheetahs were born on Indian land after 75 years. That is a really lucky start.”
Project Tiger, according to Kota Ullas Karanth, a conservation zoologist and tiger expert based in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, was “a unique conservation success globally, leading to a significant recovery of tigers until 2004.”
However, Karanth stated that there was a shift after 2004 as a result of bad science, changes in protection priorities, and misallocated funds across reserves.
Project Tiger, he continued, must now respond to the challenge of refocusing the objective and “coming up with a clear-headed, scientific action plan to meet a goal of 10,000 or more tigers.”