Launched on April 1973 Project Tiger has successfully emerged as one of the champion endeavors of Tiger conservation as formulated by a special task force set up under Wildlife Conservation Act to address the problem of dwindling Tiger population in the country.
Though the initial push for the action was constituted by the growing concern to protect the Royal Bengal Tigers, the disturbing data presented by the 1972 All India Tiger Census, which enumerated the Tiger population at an alarming 1,827 as compared to the figure of 40,000 present at the turn of 20th century called for immediate action to curb the progressive decline of wilderness resulting in the disturbance of viable tiger habitats. Thus following steps were taken:
- Thus, a national ban was imposed on Tiger Hunting in 1970
- The Wildlife Protection Act came into force in 1972
- Project Tiger was launched in 1973 and various tiger reserves were created in the country based on a 'core-buffer' strategy.
The management strategy of each Tiger Reserve functioned in accordance to certain core principles mentioned below:
- All forms of human exploitation and biotic disturbance to be eliminated from the core zone and any activities carried out in the buffer zone should not impeach the wildlife habitat.
- Any habitat management carried out should be subject to redressing the damage caused by human interference in order to restore the ecosystem to its original state.
- Changes in flora and fauna are to be documented for research purpose.
In the initial phase of Project Tiger only 9 Tiger Reserves were established in different States during the period of 1973-74 by the joint effort of Central and State Governments, namely:
- Manas (Assam)
- Palamau (Bihar)
- Similipal (Orissa)
- Corbett (U.P.)
- Kanha (M.P.)
- Melghat (Maharashtra)
- Bandipur (Karnataka)
- Ranthambhore (Rajasthan)
- Sunderbans (West Bengal)
At present the number has grown to 28 reserves in 2006 with a total Tiger population of over 1000 tigers from a mere 268 in 9 reserves in 1972.
Being at the apex of the food chain, a stable Tiger population assures us of an enduring eco-system, well equipped to sustain various organisms at different levels. This is exactly what Project Tiger has accomplished by achieving a substantial increase in the tiger population.
Thus, 'Project Tiger' basically translates into the conservation of the entire eco-system as apart from tigers, all other wild animals population have also increased in the project areas.
In the subsequent 'Five Year Plans', the main thrust as been given to enlarge the core and buffer zones in certain reserves, intensification of protection and eco-development in the buffer zones of existing tiger reserves and creation of additional tiger reserves and strengthening of the research activities.