New Delhi, June 5: With the tiger population fast depleting in several reserves in northern and central India, a group of over 140 wildlife conservationists and non-government organisations (NGOs) sent a petition to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday, coinciding with the World Environment Day, to save the national animal.
"Recent government monitoring studies have unequivocally confirmed what conservationists have been saying for years - the tiger is in steep decline, it is not adequately protected and unless action is taken now it will be too late to stem the slide to extinction," said the letter from the Tiger United Front (TUF), an association of tiger lovers and conservationists.
"In the eyes of the world, the tiger and India are synonymous. India, the country with the largest population of tigers, has the responsibility of securing its future. It would be criminal to allow this majestic animal to disappear due to our neglect."
TUF has pointed out that the present system of saving the tiger was failing and has requested the prime minister to intervene in making the wildlife management system more effective, professional, open and accountable.
Just last week, initial findings of a national tiger census announced by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) showed the count in 16 reserves in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan and their surrounding areas was down by 50 percent.
The numbers in Madhya Pradesh alone had dropped to 330 from 710, counted during a census in 2003.
Previous tiger counts were made largely on the basis of pugmarks but this was supplemented last year with camera traps, habitat surveys, dung droppings and other methods. WII officials suggested that the 2003 count might have been flawed and, therefore, inflated.
It is estimated that the number of tigers had dwindled to 3,700 in the last census and wildlife experts reckon that the numbers now could be just over 1,000 as the final census count is expected to be released by the end of the year.
"We believe that it is time that the central and state governments recognise the crucial importance of wilderness areas and wildlife to the well being of the country," the letter said.
The signatories have requested the prime minister to bifurcate the present ministry of environment and forest so that wildlife and forest issues have an exclusive ministry for each.