Project Tiger is a wildlife conservation project initiated in India in 1972 to protect the Bengal Tigers. It was launched on April 1, 1973 and has become one of the most successful wildlife conservation ventures. The project aims at tiger conservation in specially constituted tiger reserves representative of various bio-geographical regions throughout India. It strives to maintain a viable tiger population in their natural environment. In 2007, there were 28 Project Tiger wildlife reserves covering an area of 37,761 km². Project Tiger helped increased the population of these tigers from 1,200 in the 1970s to 3,500 in 1990s. At the turn of the 20th century, one estimate of the tiger population in India placed the figure at 40,000. The first ever all-India tiger census was conducted in 1972 which revealed the existence of only 1827 tigers. Various pressures in the second half of the 20th century led to the progressive decline of wilderness resulting in the disturbance of viable tiger habitats. At the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) General Assembly meeting in Delhi in 1969, serious concern was voiced about the threat to several species of wildlife and the shrinkage of wilderness in India. In 1970, a national ban on tiger hunting was imposed and in 1972 the Wildlife Protection Act came into force. A task force was then set up to formulate a project for tiger conservation with an ecological approach. The project was launched in 1973, and various tiger reserves were created in the country based on a 'core-buffer' strategy. The core areas were freed from all sorts of human activities and the buffer areas were subjected to 'conservation oriented land use'. Management plans were drawn up for each tiger reserve based on the principles outlined below: - Elimination of all forms of human exploitation and biotic disturbance from the core area and rationalization of activities in the buffer zone. - Restricting the habitat management only to repair the damages done to the eco-system by human and other interferences so as to facilitate recovery of the eco-system to its natural state. - Monitoring the faunal and floral changes over time and carrying out research about wildlife.
Initially, 9 tiger reserves were established in different States during the period 1973-74, by pooling the resources available with the Central and State Governments. These nine reserves covered an area of about 13,017km² -- viz Manas (Assam), Palamau (Bihar), Similipal (Orissa), Corbett (U.P.), Kanha (M.P.), Melghat (Maharashtra), Bandipur (Karnataka), Ranthambhore (Rajasthan) and Sunderbans (West Bengal). The project started as a Central Sector Scheme with the full assistance of Central Government until 1979-80: later, it become a 'centrally Sponsored Scheme' from 1980-81, with equal sharing of expenditures between the center and the states. The World Wildlife Fund For Nature has given Project Tiger assistance in the form of equipments, expertise and literature worth US $ 1 million. The various States have given up forestry operations in the reserves leading to a loss of revenue. Project Tiger was a pet project of Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India. Reports of widespread poaching of tigers in two of the premier Tiger Reserves of North India - Sariska and Ranthambore have prompted a high level inquiry by CBI and also the constitution of a National level supervisory committee to supervise the implementation of the project. Senior wildlife scientists and conservationists have been chosen for this committee to be headed by the Prime Minister himself. The main achievements of this project are excellent recovery of the habitat and consequent increase in the tiger population in the reserve areas, from a mere 268 in 9 reserves in 1972 to above one thousand in 28 reserves in 2006. Tigers, being at the apex of the food chain, can be considered as the indicator of the...
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