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- The International Tiger Day is observed every year on July 29 across the world in order to raise awareness for tiger conservation.
- It is always a treat to the eyes to see big cats in their natural habitat. However, with time passing by, tigers are becoming endangered and may disappear in no time.
Need for this day
- It is celebrated to make people aware of the dangers and problems faced by tigers around the globe. The cutting down of trees which causes loss of habitat, illegal trading and hunting are some of the prime factors behind the declining population of the tigers.
- Tigers are unfortunately the species that are nearing extinction. Therefore, to spread awareness about the need to conserve tigers, International Tiger Day is marked every year.
- International Tiger Day was introduced in 2010 after it was discovered that 97 percent of tigers had disappeared in the past century, with only about 3,000 remaining.
- Since tigers were on the verge of extinction, a number of countries signed an agreement at the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit in Russia to prevent the situation from worsening.
- The representatives from around 13 countries announced that the tiger-populated countries would take steps to double the tiger population by 2022.
- International Tiger Day is observed by many international organisations, including the World Wide Fund for Nature, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the Smithsonian Institution.
- Last year, the theme for the day was – “Their survival is in our hands.”
- However, this year’s theme for International Tiger Day has not been announced yet.
Tiger Population Statistics
- In February 2008, according to the report by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), there remained only 1411 tigers in the country.
- The report by the experts stated that the scenario is moving towards the edge of extinction.
Attempt to increase population
- In 10 years, the population of tigers dropped by 60%. The tigers were dying and there raised a call for urgent action.
- When the world population of tigers went down to 2,200-3,200, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorised them as endangered.
- Attempt to conserve tiger began in 2010 when 13 countries including Nepal, Bhutan, and India met intending to increase their tiger population. They decided to double the wild tigers by 2022.
- With the targeted year, only India has managed to achieve the goal. Nepal was far away from reaching the target. India emerged as a beacon in tiger conservation globally.
- As per the census of December 2021, the population of tigers in India reaches 2,967, hosting approximately two-thirds of the world’s tigers in less than one-fourth of the global range.
- A recent International Union for Conservation of Nature assessment suggests that tiger numbers have increased by 40% since 2005. This is cause for celebration.
- But is the rise in tiger numbers enough to prevent their extinction?
What made India’s conservation of tigers a success?
- Firstly, by investing billion of rupees, India worked on a war footing, studied the behaviour of big cats, and explored all areas to give them an appropriate environment to grow.
- Besides, the country even whole villages in the proximity of the protected areas and constructed the world’s largest underpass to give a safe passage to them on a highway. The funding was spent on government-sponsored studies of tigers to understand their behaviours.
- The conservation efforts also included an increased number of tiger reserves from 28 in 2006 to 50 now. It is because of the increase in the tiger population in the main areas from where the tigers started moving out and resided in many new areas according to the latest census.
- Another major factor for the increased number of tigers in India is strict action against organized poaching gangs. Now, most of the new tigers are limited to small areas and for tourism purposes.
Genetics and connectivity
- Decades of research in ecology and evolution suggest that numbers are critical to avoid extinction. Populations that are smaller than 100 breeding individual shave a high probability of extinction.
- Small and isolated populations face a high probability of extinction. This is because small populations are subject to chance/random events.
- These chance events may cause them to lose advantageous genetic variants, while other, detrimental genetic variants might increase in frequency. This process is called genetic drift.
- Also, individuals in small populations are more likely to be related, leading to inbreeding. This exposes the many slightly disadvantageous genetic variants that are present in all genomes.
- When expressed together, these detrimental genetic variants cause inbreeding depression, and reduced survival and reproduction of inbred individuals.
High chance of survival
- A closer look at the distribution of tigers across their range shows that most tiger ‘populations’ are smaller than 100.
- On their own, most tiger populations do not have a high chance of survival.
- Tigers can be genetically sampled using their excreta/scat, hair and other biological samples from different tiger reserves and analysed in a laboratory.
- Genetic variants in tiger DNA can be identified and analysed and compared across tiger reserves.
- Sets of tiger reserves that show shared genetic variation are well connected — the inference is that the intervening land scapesfacilitate connectivity or movement.
- On the flip side, sets of tiger reserves that share less genetic variation must have barriers or landscapes that impede movement and connectivity.
- Using this understanding of connectivity, we were able to simulate scenarios for the future where we asked given specific land-use change in the next 100 years?
- People have always wondered why black tigers were found only in the Similipal tiger reserve in Odisha.
- Recent work on pseudo-melanistic or black tigers found in Odisha has demonstrated the genetic effects of isolation.
- Genome sequences of a litter of zoo tigers that included pseudo-melanistic cubs revealed that a single spelling mistake (or mutation) in a specific gene causes these tigers to look this way.
Amrabad Tiger reserve is located in which state?
- West Bengal