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10 April 2023: Project Tiger over fifty years


At a celebration honouring the “50th anniversary of Project Tiger” and the “International Big Cat Alliance conference,” the prime minister revealed statistics from the Tiger Census.
During “Amrit Kaal,” the PM also unveiled the government’s plan for tiger conservation and established the International Big Cats Alliance (IBCA).


  • Highlights from the 5th cycle of the Indian Tiger Census show that there would be 3,167 tigers in the country by 2022, up 6.74 per cent from the 2,967 counted in 2018.
  • Five different landscapes across the nation were estimated.
    • According to the region, the Sundarbans, central India, the northeastern hills, the Brahmaputra flood basins, and the Shivalik hills have seen the greatest increases in tiger populations.
    • The Western Ghats population decreased, despite reports that “major populations” were constant.
  • International Big Cats Alliance (IBCA): With a membership from the range of countries harbouring these species, IBCA will focus on the protection and conservation of seven of the world’s largest cats, including the tiger, lion, leopard, snow leopard, puma, jaguar, and cheetah.

How are the tiger populations calculated?

  • By including both animals caught in camera traps and those who may not have been, the number of tigers is calculated.
    Statistics-based methods are used to estimate the latter.
  • The experts’ four-year estimations give a range of the estimated tiger population, with the mean value highlighted as the most recent estimate.

Concerning Project Tiger

  • Tiger population after independence: Following independence, India’s tiger population was fast declining.
  • There were reportedly 40,000 tigers in the nation at the time of independence, but due to extensive hunting and poaching, their numbers quickly fell to 2,000 or less by 1970.

Tiger population decline:

  • When the International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the tiger as an endangered species that same year, concerns about the situation grew even more serious.
  • The Indian government conducted its own tiger census two years later and discovered that only 1,800 remained in the entire nation.

Origin of “Project Tiger”:

  • In 1972, then-prime minister Indira Gandhi signed the Wildlife Protection Act into law in order to address the issue of hunting and poaching of not just tigers but also other animals and birds.
  • On April 1, 1973, the Central Government began Project Tiger in an effort to encourage tiger conservation.

Key components of Project Tiger:

  • Notably, Project Tiger wasn’t just concerned with protecting huge cats.
  • As tigers are at the top of the food chain, this also ensures the preservation of their natural habitat.
  • Increase in tiger population: Soon after, the number of tigers in India started to increase, and by the 1990s, it was thought that there were about 3,000 of them.
  • There are currently 54 tiger reserves in India, totalling 75,000 square kilometres. There are currently 3,167 tigers in the nation, up from 1,411 in 2006, 1,706 in 2010, and 2,226 in 2014.


  • Tigers outside protected areas and potential for conflict: The current estimate also omits information on the percentage of tigers outside protected areas, which is a significant indicator of environmental risks and human-animal conflicts and is increasing.
  • According to sources, tigers are expanding outside of Tiger Reserves in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and the surroundings (Shivalik Hills and Gangetic Plains).
  • Cities in the packed corridor between western and eastern Rajaji (Haridwar and Dehradun) have invested in linear infrastructure projects, rendering the area “functionally extinct for large carnivores and elephant movement.”
  • Investing in reducing conflict with tigers and other big herbivores is necessary.
  • Threats to protected areas: According to the authors of the census study, the increase of the tiger population will be hampered in practically all of the five major tiger zones by the rising need of infrastructure development.
  • The wildlife habitats (Protected Areas and corridors) in the Central Indian highlands and Eastern Ghats are under threat from a number of factors, including habitat encroachment, illegal tiger and prey hunting, conflicts with wildlife, unrestricted and unauthorized cattle grazing, excessive harvesting of non-timber forest products, human-caused forest fires, mining, and ever-expanding linear infrastructure.
    Because there are numerous mines for significant minerals in this area, mitigating measures like reduced mining effect techniques and rehabilitation of mining sites should be prioritized.

Forests’ state of health:
Only one-third of the 400,000 square kilometres of forests in the tiger states are in a comparatively healthier state, according to the survey.

Way Ahead

India is currently considering global operations to translocate tigers into other regions in the wake of the translocation of cheetahs from Africa.
According to experts, the majority of the nation’s tigers are concentrated in a small number of reserves that are rapidly reaching their carrying capacity, making it difficult to secure further population growth unless new areas are developed as reserves.

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