Endangered Species
Making The World Aware of the Plight of the World's Greatest Cats and Their Fight to Prevent Extinction

Indian PM Orders Moves to Save Disappearing Tigers
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March 21, 2005 — By Terry Friel, Reuters
NEW DELHI — Alarmed by reports of a rapid fall in tiger numbers, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has ordered a police investigation and created a new taskforce to save the endangered species.

Environment and Forests Department spokesman Amit Singhal said a clearer picture of the decline in the tiger population across India would come in April when an expert panel finishes its own investigation.

"Only then can we say conclusively whether the number of tigers has gone up or down," he said on Friday. "The problem is there in some reserves, but in certain reserves sightings have really gone up."

Indian media and wildlife activists have reported a dramatic drop in the number of tigers and an increase in poaching.

On Thursday, Singh chaired a meeting of the national wildlife board -- it's first in 17 months -- and ordered a new taskforce of forest officials, wildlife experts and community leaders to report on the status of Project Tiger and the tiger population.

He also banned giving tigers to foreign dignitaries and established a powerful wildlife crime prevention bureau.

Officials say tigers may have been wiped out entirely in the Sariska sanctuary in the desert state of Rajasthan -- where the Project Tiger conservation programme began in 1973 and where there were as many as 16-18 big cats a year ago.

Wake-Up Call

Activists fear the story may be the same in sanctuaries across India, which has almost half the world's surviving tigers.

"It's probably the biggest conservation scandal in modern times," Belinda Wright, executive director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, said.

"There are some parks with none or so few tigers it's not a viable population. Sariska has been an incredible wakeup call."

Detectives from the Central Bureau of Investigation are due in Sariska on Friday as part of the police probe.

Trade in dead tigers is illegal, but a single one can fetch up to $50,000 on the international market. Organs and body parts are popular in Chinese medicine. Bones are worth about $400 a kilogram, a penis almost $850, a tooth $120 and a claw just $10.

A century ago, there were an estimated 40,000 tigers in India. Now, some wildlife experts say there are barely 2,000 and the official government census about 3,700.

Exact figures are almost impossible because of the shy nature of the big cats. The government keeps no detailed records on poaching, most of which goes unreported anyway.

In Sariska, about 900 vehicles enter the reserve on some days, about 25 times the recommended 35-40 vehicles a day, driving any remaining animals deeper into the forest.

For decades, hunting tigers was a popular sport with British colonial rulers and Indian maharajas. In some areas, tigers were once so common they posed a serious threat to villagers and explorers and people rarely ventured out in the evening unarmed.

(Additional reporting by Sugita Katyal in Sariska)

Endangered White Tiger

There are only around 200 of the white tigers left in the world. White tigers are an Asian species, found from the frozen tundra of the Soviet Far East, south to the humid jungles of Malaya and Indonesia, and west to the hot, hardwood forests of India. There are five living subspecies; three others are already extinct. Current estimates put the world population of wild tigers at about 5,000-7,000, the most numerous race being the Bengal race, distributed among some 18 tiger reserves and sanctuaries of India (and a half-dozen in Nepal and Bangladesh), accounting for over two-thirds of all wild tigers.

Tigers are a protected species all over the world. Even though it's completely illegal to hunt them, people are still slaying these beautiful creatures.

Wild mysteries rewind:
During the last 100 years, merely 12 white tigers have been spotted in the wild in India; giving an approximate proportion of 1 white tiger for every 10,000 normal pigmented (orange) tigers.

The white tiger's origin was recorded in India during the start of the HB Mughal period from 1556 to 1605 A.D.

The first "modern" case of a white tiger being captured was in 1915. He was caught by the local maharajah who kept the tiger until its death.

The recent spotting of a white Bengal tiger in the wild was in Rewa (Central India) on 27, May 1951. This male tiger was captured by the Maharaja Martand Singh of Rewa and was named Mohan - it is from this animal that all white tigers in captivity today are descended.

In 1960, a two year old white tiger in Rewa, Mohini, was bought by a businessman for US $10,000.00 and given to the National Zoo in Washington D.C. On 5th December 1960, Rewa appeared on the USA White House lawn with then president, Eisenhower.

Rewa was used to try and breed more white tigers in the USA (with normal orange tigers) but her offspring had various physical defects.

The voice of a zoologist.

To quote from Dr. Ron Tilson, Conservation Director of the Minnesota Zoo,

"The white tiger controversy among zoos is a small part ethics and a large part economics. The tiger Species Survival Plan has condemned breeding white tigers because of their mixed ancestry, most have been hybridized with other subspecies and are of unknown lineage, and because they serve no conservation purpose. Owners of white tigers say they are popular exhibit animals and increase zoo attendance and revenues as well. Similar rationalization can be applied to the selective propagation of white lions, king cheetahs and other phenotypically aberrant animals."

"However, there is an unspoken issue that shames the very integrity of zoos, their alleged conservation programs and their message to the visiting public. To produce white tigers or any other phenotypic curiosity, directors of zoos and other facilities must continuously inbreed father to daughter and father to granddaughter and so on. At issue is a contradiction of fundamental genetic principles upon which all Species Survival Plans for endangered species in captivity are based. White tigers are an aberration artificially bred and proliferated by some zoos, private breeders and a few circuses who do so for economic rather than conservation reasons."

Let's resolve this wild abberation!!

The best and most appropriate solution to white tiger conservation is exhibiting and breeding white tigers is the very antithesis of conservation, is dishonest and unethical and is tantamount to catering to the public's desire to see genetic aberrations rather than educating the public regarding the incredible process of natural selection, how the unbelievable diversity of life has evolved on our planet throughout the past 50 million years and the crucial need for us to preserve natural habitats and stop the destruction of our global ecosystem if we desire to save any threatened or endangered species from extinction.

Bengal Tigers

The wild Bengal tiger is the largest found tiger in India. The World Conservation Union Cat Specialist Group has estimated between 3,250 - 4,700 Bengal tigers in the Indian sub-continent. There are 66 different protected zones for the Bengal tigers in India. There are 3 protected zones for Bengal tigers in Nepal inhabiting around 150-250 tigers, 4 protected areas in Bhutan housing 50-250 tigers, 3 protected areas in Bangladesh housing 300-450 tigers. The number of wild Bengal tigers in Myanmar is unknown.


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