How can we save tigers from extinction?
Nava Thakuria | 16 Jan 2012

If a tiger is killed by some villagers and even the flesh is taken for eating, the forest department must take prompt action against them. Moreover, its publicity wing should rush immediately to the location to understand the reasons behind this kind behaviour of the villagers.

IT WAS a hurriedly organised citizen's meeting at Guwahati Press Club, where serious concerns were expressed at the increasing trend of poaching and killing of wildlife in various parts of Assam. The December 30 meeting in a resolution also urged the Assam government to activate the forest department and its public relation wing to fight against the superstition involving various wildlife body parts.

Attended by a number of wildlife and environment activists, the meeting also appealed to the government to enlighten the police personnel on wildlife issues as well.

Various speakers raised voice against the killing of tigers in the region. Most recently, a tiger was killed by the villagers in Goreswar of Kamrup district and some villagers even took away its flesh for eating. The incident that took place in the last week of December, shook the conscience of the conservationists in particular and common people in general, as tiger meat is not recognised a staple food in Assamese society.

Earlier in a tragic incident, a full-grown tigress was killed by the Assam police personnel in the first week of December near Kaziranga National Park locality. Nearly 14 shots were fired by Assam Police Battalion personnel from two AK-47 rifles after the inmate of Kaziranga came out to an adjacent village named Bochagaon and targeted few villagers. The State Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain had already ordered an inquiry into the incident. Initiated by activist-journalist Mubina Akhter, the press club meeting was attended and addressed by environment activists and animal lovers.

The countrywide census of tiger in January 2008 reveals that India had only 1,411 tigers. The number was 3,508 in 1997. Of course, there is some good news that the number of tigers in India is increasing up to 1,875 in the last three years. Assam can take its pride as the State has nearly 15 per cent of India's total tiger population. Five years back, Assam recorded to give shelter to 70 tigers. It has increased the tiger population in 2010.

Unfortunately, Assam remains a major state in India where the tiger poaching is going on for many years. Other Indian states which observe rampant poaching of the highly endangered wild animal include Paschimbanga, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala.

The meeting expressed concern that tiger and other wildlife are being regularly poached for use in some Chinese traditional medicine. Many times, the superstition among various sections in the society instigates the killing of wildlife. Hence public awareness is the need of the hour. Speakers in the meeting also criticised the State forest department for its ineffectiveness to make common people a partner in the conservation effort. Publicity wing of the State forest department has done a little in this respect.

The meeting felt that if a tiger is killed by some villagers and even the flesh is taken for eating, the forest department must take prompt actions against them. Moreover, its publicity wing should rush immediately to the location to understand the reasons behind this kind of behaviour of the villagers and pursue for conservation of wildlife in those localities.

India adopted the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 to prosecute the wildlife criminals. The same year tiger was selected as the national animal of India. The central government launched the Project Tiger scheme the following year and upgraded many forest reserves for safeguarding the tigers. Some of the important reserves where tigers should enjoy sanctuary include Manas National Park, Kaziranga National Park, Namdapha National Park, Nameri National Park (all in Assam), Packey Wildlife Sanctuary (Arunachal Pradesh), Dampa Wildlife Sanctuary (Mizoram) with Sunderban National Park, Corbett National Park, Kanha National Park, Sariska National Park, Pench Tiger Reserve, Tadoba Tiger Reserve, Periyar Tiger Reserve etc.

India has a number of wildlife protection rules but at the same time it needs to sensitise the forest officials. The people living in the adjacent areas to wildlife reserves should also be enlightened on the process of conservation. The meeting urged all to take a pledge in the New Year to preserve the wildlife and the environment. The speakers observed that even being pro-people, we could be active conservationists. They emphasised on the community involvement in the mission to preserve nature and conserve wildlife. They also insisted that the government and forest department must play a pro-active role.

Citing the example of Kaziranga tiger killing incident, Mubina Akhter in her speech expressed anger that the authority has not taken any visible actions against the responsible police personnel who was involved in the killing of the tigress near the 430 square kilometer UNESCO World Heritage Site. She advocated that a group of dedicated reporters should be trained on environment and wildlife issues. Regular interaction among themselves through a network and sufficient space for the issue in the mainstream newspaper and news channels were also emphasised in her speech.