The Indian Tiger is in deep trouble. This is of course not news. What is news is the
extent of the tiger's predicament as indicated by the results of the Tiger census 1997.
India's efforts to save the Tiger are over 30 years old now and while, initially, Project
Tiger and other conservation efforts saw excellent results, they also led to a
complacency, which today, is proving fatal for the Tiger. The picture became clearer a
few years ago when an increasing number of doubts surfaced over the real numbers of
the tiger versus officially claimed figures. Experts claimed that poaching was decimating
the tiger, and their numbers were declining at an alarming rate. Large seizures of bones,
skin and tiger penises, which nevertheless were only the tip of the iceberg, seemed to
confirm these fears. What was at question was the methodology used for enumerating
tiger numbers. Tracking and making plaster casts of pug marks was proved to be a
fatally flawed technique when it was firmly established that even expert trackers, when
shown pug marks made by the same tiger over, say, eight different terrains, were apt to
identify these as made by eight different tigers. A better methodology, taking into
account the prey base in an area, as well as other different factors was devised and used
for the Tiger census conducted this year. The results are alarming.
Even though the figures are not officially out, a friend of mine, Sanjay Chatterjee,
mountaineer and wildlife expert, has given me the low-down on the situation.
According to Sanjay, who was present at the Corbett park census, while Corbett is
supposed to be home to 108 Tigers, the census conclusivly establishes the presence of
only 35 odd Tigers. A shocking statement when it sinks in that 70% of Corbett park's
Tigers have vanished into a statistical limbo. If these figures are extrapolated for all of
India, it means that instead of 4000 odd tigers in the wild, actually no more than 1200
exist. Even these are being wiped out at the staggering rate of 1 tiger a day. You don't
need maths to figure out that the Tiger's days in the wild, at least in India are numbered.
In a little over 4 years the Indian Tiger, panthera tigris, will be extinct, outside of zoos.
Another factor sealing the doom of the Tiger, and reducing any chance of their survival
as a species, almost to zero, is the distorted gender ratio. Sanjay points out that even
amongst the remaining Tigers, most are female. Poachers concentrate on the male
because along with the bones, the penis is also a valuable commodity. For those of you
who don't know what possible use Tiger bones or Penis would be for anybody, just
walk into your neighborhood Chinese medicine store, wherever in the world you may
be. Traditional Chinese medicine places great value on both Tiger bones and Tiger
penis as founts of youth. Tiger Penis soup is available even in New York and shops in
Taiwan , China and Hong-kong routinely store Tiger body products. The Chinese
obsession for Tiger medicine decimated their own populations of the Tigers and have
now targeted the last great reservoir in the world - the Indian Tiger.