India celebrates 50 years of project ‘bringing tigers back from brink of extinction’

India is home to more than 70% of global wild tiger population

Sravasti Dasgupta
Saturday 01 April 2023 21:40 BST

Related video: India’s tigers on the rise

India is celebrating five decades of tiger conservation as it marked the 50th anniversary of “Project Tiger” on Saturday.

With a current population of about 3,000 tigers, India is home to more than 70 per cent of the global tiger population and their number is increasing by 6 per cent per annum, according to government figures.

India first launched Project Tiger under then-prime minister Indira Gandhi on 1 April 1973, in a bit to promote conservation.

While it initially covered nine tiger reserves spread over 18,278 sq km, India now has 53 reserves covering more than 75,000 sq km (approximately 2.4 per cent of the country’s geographical area).

In an interview with the Times of India to mark the anniversary, environment minister Bhupender Yadav said: “Project Tiger has been successful in bringing tigers back from the brink of extinction.”

Former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi kickstarted Project Tiger at Corbett National Park on 1 April 1973

The Indian government will officially mark the anniversary of the project on 9 April with a three-day event in Mysuru, in southern Karnataka state.

At the event, prime minister Narendra Modi will release the latest tiger census data and a commemorative coin.

Mr Yadav said that the success of the project should not be viewed in terms of numbers alone.

“We believe in the scientific management of tiger reserves and aim to have a tiger population as per the carrying capacity of the habitat,” he said.

“The ministry is bringing all potential tiger habitats under the coverage of the NTCA [National Tiger Conservation Authority] so that the viable tiger population can be conserved on a sustainable basis.”

On Saturday, the general secretary of the opposition Congress party Jairam Ramesh also spoke about the 50th anniversary of the big cat conservation project.

In a statement on Twitter, he said: “[Fifteen] months after she launched Gir Lion Project, Indira Gandhi heralded Project Tiger exactly 50 years ago today at Corbett. There were 9 tiger reserves then. Today, there are 53. For her, protecting tigers = protecting forests. Tiger reserves are 1/3rd of rich forest areas now.”

Congress' recently disqualified MP Rahul Gandhi also thanked his grandmother and the former prime minister for starting the project.

In a statement on Facebook, Mr Gandhi said: “Project Tiger is a glowing tribute to India's steadfast commitment to wildlife conservation, and the inspiring legacy of former prime minister Indira Gandhi.”

India along with other countries with tiger populations including Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam, committed to doubling their number of big cats in 2010 by 2022.

India met its target in 2018.

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