World Tiger Day: Wildlife experts caution against poaching, habitat destruction

New Delhi, July 29 (IANSlife) The ongoing pandemic has not only affected humans, but also impacted all species on Earth; bringing a stronger focus the inextricablehuman-wildlife connect.

According to the Tiger Census released this week by Union Minister Prakash Javadekar, the country now houses 70 percent of the world’s tiger population. The governments of the 13 tiger range countries have resolved to double the number of tigers by 2022.Notably, the declining tiger population which took place a few years ago has seen a miniscule but welcome upswing recently.

Malaika Vaz, a National Geographic Explorer and wildlife presenter, says: “My work has taken me to many tiger reserves across the country where I’ve had the chance to spend time up-close with countless tigers. And in each place, I’m always struck by the fact that the tiger as an emblematic, keystone species is able to draw attention to these critical ecosystems that would often otherwise be decimated. The charisma of tigers has led to the protection of vast tracts of forest – that also inevitably protect the smallest of critters from frogs and snakes to lesser-known mammals like caracals, otters and dholes.”

Speaking to IANSlife on the impact of COVID-19 on tigers, she notes, “as our society deals with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, nature and habitat is impacted. Given the backdrop of an economy in recession and the shutdown of eco-tourism, there has been a sharp spike in the poaching of wildlife over the last couple of months – and tigers too are more threatened.”

“To me, the tiger is and will always be one of the strongest symbols for India’s incredible natural heritage – on this International Tiger Day, we need to make a concerted effort to champion the protection of this species and the ecosystems they call home,” she added.

Krithi Karanth, National Geographic Explorer and Chief Conservation Scientist, Centre for Wildlife Studies, told IANSlife: “The pandemic has demonstrated our inextricable connections to wildlife and natural habitats and ecosystems. Ongoing destruction of wildlife habitats, poaching and wildlife trade have enhanced thetransmission of zoonotics to people. Our economy is being crippled by this and we must use the time to rebuild resilience to protect wildlife and wild places including our national animal – the tiger.”

(Siddhi Jain can be contacted at siddhi.j@ians.in)

–IANS

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