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International Tiger Day: the Indian Bengal Tiger roars to glory

Noor with mesmerising eyes has been the queen of Ranthambore (All photo: Mrityunjoy Kumar Jha)

Roars of Indian Tigers grow louder as number of Indian tigers keeps increasing

There was something in those eyes. A warning, challenge, maybe curiosity. I don't know what exactly but one thing was sure that those eyes were mesmerising. Whenever I write about tigers, I can't forget those eyes of T-39 tigress popularly known as Noor – the queen of Ranthambore. 

This tigress can emote, be expressive, and stay cool even when cameras whirr and click, enjoying her “celebrity” status like a queen. She was so close to my 200-500mm tele lens, that later I found a reflection of our safari jeep in her eyes. 

I have such a good memory of my encounter with Noor, I always mention her in my every article with a new fact. 

Also Read: Noor: The Queen of Ranthambore

While the world is celebrating International Tiger Day on July 29, for India it is a special memorable day as it houses nearly 70 per cent of the tigers today, writing a great success story of tiger conservation. While the worldwide tiger population is still stumbling along at just under 4,000 tigers, India is home to almost three-quarters of the cats. India has created almost two dozen new tiger reserves totalling 52 now. Besides serving as a protective corridor and area for tigers, sanctuaries also allow for other wildlife and forests to prosper. 

In India, tigers and humans have developed a new kind of relationship. The live-and-let-live outlook has also been foundational for India’s transformation into the world’s greatest stronghold for tigers. 

Also Read: India blazes a success story with tiger conservation

So while India has done far more and far better with tigers than any other country, we have yet to achieve our full potential. So far, tiger conservation has been centred on protected areas such as tiger reserves, national parks and regional landscape. Beyond the national parks there are tiger corridors which form a crucial habitat and National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) have already mapped 32 major tiger corridors and several smaller ones.

“A tiger corridor is a stretch of land linking tiger habitats, allowing movement of tigers, prey and other wildlife. Without corridors tiger habitat can become fragmented and tiger populations isolated leaving the tigers vulnerable to localized extinction, Corridors are used by other wildlife also,” says the NTCA report. 

Most experts see forest corridors between tiger-bearing habitats as future habitats for tiger populations. Efforts are on to secure these corridors, which is not easy. For one thing, the corridors have a substantial human population, which increases chances of man-animal conflict. India has built the world’s largest animal underpass to let tigers pass beneath a highway but more such measures are required for the tiger's roar to echo through India's forests. 

The war footing efforts are on to secure the natural corridor connecting Ranthambore and Mukunda tiger reserves in Rajasthan and Kuno national park in Madhya Pradesh which is being used frequently by tigers. After three months in November, tigers are going to have company of Cheetahs which are being brought from South Africa. The country's last spotted cheetah died in Chhattisgarh in 1947. Later, the cheetah was declared extinct in India in 1952. Now a total of 10 African cheetahs, including five females are going to be introduced. Hope we will be able to roaring Bengal tigers and purring Cheetahs in the same wild space. 

Coming back to tigers, experts say that India is at a cross-road. It can resign itself to a small, limited number of big cats, or it can become one of the world’s most stunning conservation success stories by allowing its tiger population to grow to 10,000 or even 15,000 animals like those times when thousands of them once roamed India’s diverse landscapes with many extinct animals.

Also Read: India gets Srivilliputhur as its 51st tiger reserve