Environmental News from India:
- India is home to 60% of the world’s tiger population. The habitats that support tiger populations are becoming increasingly isolated due to human pressures.
- Wildlife corridors linking these tiger populations are critical to ensure the movement of tigers between populations and maintain genetic diversity.
- Corridors are under heavy pressure, mostly from infrastructure. There is a need to emphasize connectivity between corridors through a multi-stakeholder approach to ensure the welfare of wildlife and communities without compromising development.
- The views in this commentary are that of the author.
The tiger is among the world’s most iconic and awe-inspiring animals, deeply embedded in human culture and legends. Its distribution ranged from Russia in the north to Java in the south. Today, only about 5000 tigers survive in the wild, isolated in pockets throughout Asia, restricted to just 7% of their historical range.
The decline has been particularly drastic in the last two centuries, coinciding with the rising human population and loss of forests. India is home to almost 3000 tigers, comprising 60% of the global population. These tigers are isolated in their native ranges (mostly protected areas) and separated from other tiger populations due to habitat loss in the intervening regions.
Certain regions of the tiger range are considered Tiger Conservation Landscapes (TCLs). These are large blocks of contiguous or connected areas that can support at least five adult tigers and where tiger presence has been confirmed in the last ten years.
For species with large territorial extents like the tiger, connectivity between populations is essential to maintain genetic diversity. Tiger habitats in Protected Areas (PAs) are small (<300 km sq on average), with only a few individuals in each.
Almost a third of India’s tigers live outside protected areas. Genetic diversity can be lost when populations become small and are isolated, negatively impacting a species’ ability to adapt and survive. It is, therefore, important to identify genetically connected tiger populations and maintain connectivity within them for the long-term viability of a species.
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