India committed to protecting tigers: Modi

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New Delhi, April 12 (IANS) India has a “successful track record of protecting its tigers”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday at an international tiger conference here, as India announced an increase in its tiger population – at 2,500 in the wild – from 2,226 in 2014.

“India has a successful track record of protecting its tigers, and by doing so the entire ecosystem gets protected,” he said in his address at the inaugural function of the three-day ‘Third Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation’ attended by more than 700 conservation experts, ministers and senior officials from 15 Tiger Range countries.

Earlier, union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar announced that India has 2,500 tigers as of today, up from 2,226 in 2014.

Noting benefits from tiger conservation are enormous, but intangible and cannot be quantified this in economic terms, Modi said: “Forests are inseparable from wild animals. Both are mutually complementary. Destruction of one leads to destruction of the other.”

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He also stressed on the challenges faced in tiger conservation from poaching.

“Conservation of tiger is not a choice, it is an imperative. We have been facing a lot of challenges from poaching in India. Tiger conservation is a collective responsibility of government of India and states. I also compliment state governments for their efforts.

“I believe tiger conservation or conservation of nature is not a drag on development. Both can happen in mutually complementary manner. As a country having more than 70 percent of global tiger population, India is committed to complement initiatives of other Tiger Range Countries,” he said.

He also said the tiger is an apex consumer in the ecological pyramid and food chain, requiring a large amount of prey, supported by good forests, and by protecting the animal,”we protect the entire ecosystem and the ecological services, which are equally crucial for the well-being of human beings”.

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Appreciating the efforts made by the Tiger Range Countries in conserving tigers, Modi said: “I must mention the great effort made by (then Russian prime minister) Vladimir Putin in convening the tiger summit in 2010. The Global Tiger Recovery Programme was an important outcome of these efforts. I also appreciate the initiatives of the chairman of the Global Tiger Forum, Yeshey Dorji.”

“Our cultural legacy which encourages compassion and co-existence has played an important role in the success of Project Tiger. Due to such collective efforts, there has been a rise of 30 percent in the number of tigers as it has gone up from 1,706 in 2010 to 2,226 in 2014.”

He said that National Tiger Conservation Authority has taken many landmark initiatives like use of modern technology, including intelligent, infrared and thermal cameras on a 24×7 basis for surveillance against poaching in sensitive tiger reserves, while several protocols for smart patrolling and tiger monitoring have been evolved and radio telemetry is being promoted to monitor tigers. A national repository of tiger camera trap photo database is also being created.

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“To do all this, we have, this year, doubled our allocation for tiger conservation. We have increased it from Rs.185 crore to Rs.380 crore,” Modi said.

“The Tiger Range Countries are signatories to other international conventions to address international trade on endangered species. We are moving towards formally adopting the statute of South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network,” he added.

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