In the current Radio Times, Chris Packham makes a number of very interesting and thought-provoking comments - see http://www.radiotimes.com/blogs/962-...wasting-money/.
I have been lucky enough to go to India and see Tigers in the last five years, and I am growing in my concern for the plight of the Bengal Tiger. The seeming mis-management of the reserves in India is there for all to see, with Tiger numbers declining dramatically even in the years I have been going. Talking to the guides, many of whom have great knowledge about the reserves and also have a personal interest in the Tiger, this is also causing the locals concern.
Here are a couple of things I have gleaned from my many conversations.
1. Tiger numbers are declining and may have gone beyond the point of no return. Take for example Kanha National Park, where a recent survey of Tiger numbers has been undertaken and shown that the number is c.60 - some suspect even lower (the actual number I was given was 59), but also suspect that the 'official figure' will be broadcast as higher. When I first went, five years ago, the number for Kanha was said to be over 100, so a 40% decline, through poaching, but also a worrying number of natural deaths (causes? Gene pool weakness?). Extrapolating that out across India, it is likely that a total number of below 1000 is likely - a figure that CP strongly hints at in his RT article).
2. What is protecting the Tiger, if anything? This is a very complicated issue and I don't suppose that anybody really knows - India is a large country but has a huge and rapidly rising population, the pressures this puts on the environment is huge. However, the park regime in India is strange; the Park management team is changed every three years, and each arrives with it's own ideas and changes - some say with a resultant lack of consistency towards Tiger conservation and also relations with the local areas. For example, I was told that the new Park manager at Bandhavgarh arrived and decided that he would close the park for two years at least - no consultation at all with the local towns that depend on the reserve for income, or indeed the thought that it is said that each Bengal Tiger is worth $90million to conservation. The locals would have to turn to what for income or survival? Cutting the buffer zone trees down for firewood? Even poaching? The fact that the numbers of Tigers in Bandhgavgarh is said to be highest in the area that tourists go (currently only c30% of the reserve is open to the public) and is declining in the other no-go areas might suggest that actually where the tigers are truly benefiting the local area they are better protected.
Whatever the reason, the population of Tigers in India is declining at such a rate that it seems the Indian Authorites may have lost control of the situation. An audit of their system seems to be necessary as it doesn't appear to work. If the world is not to lose one of the most magnificent of all animals action needs to be taken.
I hope that the above will provoke discussion, with those that know more than me being able to provide extra information on the issues.
The attached gorgeous female was seen in Bandhavgarh in March 2010.