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Introduction

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NATIONAL TIGER CONSERVATION AUTHORITY/PROJECT TIGER

Background

The Government of India has taken a pioneering initiative for conserving its national animal, the tiger, by launching the ‘Project Tiger’ in 1973. From 9 tiger reserves since its formative years, the Project Tiger coverage has increased to 47 at present, spread out in 18 of our tiger range states. This amounts to around 2.08% of the geographical area of our country. The tiger reserves are constituted on a core/buffer strategy. The core areas have the legal status of a national park or a sanctuary, whereas the buffer or peripheral areas are a mix of forest and non-forest land, managed as a multiple use area. The Project Tiger aims to foster an exclusive tiger agenda in the core areas of tiger reserves, with an inclusive people oriented agenda in the buffer.

Project Tiger is an ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, providing central assistance to the tiger States for tiger conservation in designated tiger reserves.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a statutory body of the Ministry, with an overarching supervisory / coordination role, performing functions as provided in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

The ADG (Project Tiger) and his officers also service the NTCA. The Regional Offices of the NTCA have been recently established at Bengaluru, Guwahati and Nagpur, each headed by an IGF and assisted by an AIG.

The allocation for Project Tiger during the XII Plan is Rs 1245 crore. The expenditure during 2012-13 and 2013-14 are Rs 163.87 crore and 169.48 crore respectively.

Current Activities:

Providing central assistance to States under the ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger for 44 tiger reserves, for activities (recurring / non-recurring), as reflected in the Annual Plan of Operations of tiger reserves, based on their Tiger Conservation Plans is an important activity. This, interalia, includes protection, habitat amelioration, day to day monitoring, eco-development for local people in buffer areas, voluntary relocation of people from core/critical tiger habitats, and addressing human-wildlife conflicts, within the ambit of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and guidelines of Project Tiger / National Tiger Conservation Authority.

The NTCA / Project Tiger also conducts the country level assessment of the status of tiger, co-predators, prey and habitat once in four years, using the refined methodology, as approved by the Tiger Task Force.

Special thrust on tiger protection and antipoaching operations

The illegal demand for body parts and derivatives of tiger outside the country continues to be a serious threat to wild tigers. Therefore, protection is accorded topmost priority in Project Tiger / NTCA. The States are engaged in an ongoing manner through the NTCA Headquarters as well as Regional Offices, while issuing alerts, besides closely working with the CBI, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and the Police Departments. The following actions are taken in this context:

  • Alerting the States as and when required
  • Transmitting backward / forward linkages of information relating to poachers
  • Advising the States for combing forest floor to check snares / traps
  • Performing supervisory field visits through the National Tiger Conservation Authority and its regional offices
  • Providing assistance to States for antipoaching operations
  • Using information technology for improved surveillance (e-Eye system) using thermal cameras launched in Corbett
  • Launching tiger reserve level monitoring using camera trap to keep a photo ID database of individual tigers
  • Preparing a national database of individual tiger photo captures to establish linkage with body parts seized or dead tigers
  • Assisting States to refine protection oriented monitoring through monitoring system for tiger’s intensive protection and ecological status (M-STrIPES)
  • Providing grant through NTCA for patrolling in tiger rich sensitive forest areas outside tiger reserves
  • Assisting States to deploy local workforce in a big way for protection to complement the efforts of field staff [In all, approximately 24 lakh mandays are generated annually with 50% central assistance amounting to around Rs. 24 crores (excluding matching 50% share given by States) under Project Tiger. Many local tribes constitute such local workforce (besides non-tribals), eg. Baigas, Gonds in Madhya Pradesh, Gonds in Maharashtra, Chenchus in Andhra Pradesh, Sholigas in Karnataka, Gujjars in Uttarakhand and Irulas in Tamil Nadu to name a few. The deployment of such local tribals has been fostered / encouraged in the last two years].
  • Supporting States for raising, arming and deploying the Special Tiger Protection Force

Managing dispersing tigers in human dominated landscapes

In several productive tiger landscapes, tigers move out from the core/critical tiger habitats/source areas. This is an innate behaviour owing to their social dynamics. Since the tiger landscapes have human settlements and varied land uses, there are frequent human-tiger/ wildlife interface issues. The NTCA / Project Tiger is actively engaging with the States to address such issues and a SOP has been put in place in this regard.

The important thrust areas for the Plan period are:

  1. Stepped up protection/networking/surveillance
  2. Voluntary relocation of people from core/critical tiger habitat to provide inviolate space for tiger
  3. Strengthening of protection infrastructure and habitat management as per Tiger Conservation Plans of tiger reserves
  4. Use of information technology in wildlife crime prevention
  5. Addressing human-wildlife conflicts
  6. Addressing the issue of resource dependency of local people through sustainable livelihood options
  7. Capacity building of frontline personnel
  8. Developing a national repository of camera trap tiger photographs with IDs
  9. Active management for rescuing moving tigers from human dominated landscape
  10. Conducting the next round of country level assessment of tiger, co-predators, prey besides habitat status monitoring
  11. Conducting the next round of the independent management effectiveness evaluation
  12. Strengthening the regional offices of the NTCA
  13. Declaring and consolidating new tiger reserves
  14. Fostering awareness for eliciting local public support
  15. Fostering Research

Due to concerted efforts under Project Tiger, at present India has the distinction of having the maximum number of tigers in the world (2226) as per 2014 assessment, when compared to the 13 tiger range countries. The 2014 country level tiger assessment has also shown a 30% increase of tigers in the country (from 1706 in 2010 to 2226 in 2014). 70% of the world's tigers exist in India. The tiger corridors for gene flow have been mapped in the GIS domain. The latest estimate has captured 1540 individual tigers which is around 70% of the total population estimate. Robust Spatially explicit capture-recapture (SECR) models have been used to arrive at the current figure.

For more details, go to www.projecttiger.nic.in