In early 2006, the Indian government announced plans for a census of their threatened tiger population. Everyone knew India’s tigers were in trouble due to the usual suspects – human encroachment, consequent reduction in prey animals and range, and poaching. But no one knew how much trouble the animals were in. Of course, conducting a census on such a large geographical area of such an elusive species of cat isn’t going to produce an exact number. However, what was reported was really chilling. The census put the total numbers at under 2000. Seven of the country’s 28 reserves are barely able, mathematically, to sustain a breeding population. Even when you account for imperfections in the census and take a more sanguine view of the tiger’s situation, the estimates top out at around 3,000. Not good, however you want to slice it.
And so India, a developing country one might expect to turn a blind eye to the tiger’s plight, is actually doing the opposite. First of all, credit must be given the government for being so bracingly honest about how bad it’s gotten for the tiger. Were this Russia, or China, you’d have state-run TV stations saying “In our top story tonight, recent scientific surveys have concluded that there are 4.7 tigers for every person living in the country. Furthermore, they appear to be so happy and content with the state of conservation efforts, they have often been observed coming out of the forests where they spend most of their time to ‘high-five’ biologists and have even been known to play harmless games of fetch with the biologists’ small children.” India instead came clean.
And miracle of miracles Number 2, when conservation groups submitted ways to rescue the tigers before their slide into extinction becomes an inexorable rather than a preventable one, the Indian government listened. They’re going to commit over $150 million to establishing 8 more tiger reserves and, most importantly, get the people currently living in tiger territory to leave (only fair…the tigers werethere first, I believe). They’re also – and this is big – committing over $13 million to a “tiger protection force,” a specially-created ranger force intended to protect the cats from poachers. Setting aside reserves is all well and good, but if there’s nothing to prevent poachers from roaming free and taking kills for sale into dumbfuckingshit black markets in Asia and Russia where the resident limpdicks take tiger pills as a kind of natural Viagra, then the tigers aren’t really protected. Having land isn’t the only problem for a tiger; the Indian government has taken a solid step forward in protecting their national symbol by deploying a police force that can protect that land.
With government protection like this, it’s now no longer foolish to hope that the long-term prospects for tigers in India lean more towards the Yellowstone gray wolf recovery than extinction.