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Tiger can't be saved with understaffed forest dept: Phil Davis
WWF has declared July 29 as Global Tiger Day. On the eve of the day, Phil Davis, author and active tiger conservationist, speaks about the various nuances of saving the royal endangered species.

I have known Phil first from the his early days of being a citizen journalist on merinews.com. We stayed connected on Facebook and I kept a track of his endeavours around saving tigers in different parts of India and world. On the eve of WWF declared Global Tiger Day, I decided to send across a small questionnaire to Phil exploring his experience and ideas around the tiger conservation scenario in the country. Excerpts of the interview are given below:

Q: You have been writing, talking and spreading awareness on social media about the importance of conserving tigers for quite some time now. Tell us about your endeavors in detail.

Phil: I started an organization called Tiger Awareness. We help at ground level working with local NGOs in Dudhwa, Bandhavgarh,Sundarbans, Pilibhit and Ranthambhore; we also support the forest department in Ranthambhore..We help in such ways as helping local villagers, with support in man – animal conflict. We support local NGOS with equipment so they can give education and awareness talks..We have also supported the forest department in Ranthambhore with equipment for forest guards, including a desktop computer for collating data on tigers in area. We have also helped in many other ways, which can be viewed at www.tigerawareness.co.uk

Q: When and why did you actually decide that Tiger Conservation will be an important agenda in your life?

Phil: I started Tiger Awareness in 1998, when I found out that there was around 7000 – 8000 left in the wild. I wanted to do something pro active..Initially promoting other organizations work, then taking Tiger Awareness forward and learning more and networking more whilst visiting Indias forest areas. Conservation is a continual learning curve..

Q: After all these years how do you rate your struggle to save the tigers – optimistic or pessimistic?

Phil: We have helped at ground level working with NGOS, I have found some forest departments are not wanting support, others do want support, as in Ranthambhore. Conservation work is about collaboration. I always try to look for the positive in all situations. t has been great to see so many of the younger generation getting involved, long may it continue and spread to all generations.

Q: In 1970s tigers were at the brink of extinction in India. From there we have turned around and managed to save the species. But in current days we seem to be failing again. What could the reasons?

Phil: There has been a grave lack of recruitment in  forest department. It has been understaffed in most areas for the last 15 years..The department should also be better equipped. There has to be more collaboration at ground level between all the stakeholders of forest areas, such as Forest department, NGOs and villagers.

Q: Corbett, Sunderbans, Ranathambore, Sariska – India seems to have proper habitats for the species. So why does it become so difficult to manage the growth of tigers? What are the challenges?

Phil: The population of India is increasing, whilst the forest area is decreasing, this will cause more chance of conflict, as Tiger and other predators move out of there natural habitat, also people encroach more now than ever before on the forest areas. It is important people are given a place to live, away from Tiger areas, as we struggle to co exist.

Q: What are the shortcomings that you have come across in administration of the various Tiger Reserves in India? How do you rate the efforts of the administration in the country?

Phil: I would like to see the authorities listen more and be more flexible to change. They also need to stop more of the corruption at local level.

Q: How d you feel India has fared in comparison to other countries when it comes to improving the tiger population?

Phil: There are improvements that can be made, though I feel in some areas of India, such as Ranthambhore, Tiger is fairing better, due to the collaboration of all parties.

Q: How do you rate your work so far? Any regrets? What are the plans ahead?

Phil: I have no regrets in helping in India. Tiger Awareness for the future will continue to support the local NGOs we work with. Long live TIGER IN THE WILD.

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