July 29 was International Tiger Day, also called Global Tiger Day. The day is celebrated to give worldwide attention to the conservation of wild tigers and their habitats. It is both an awareness day as a day for celebrations. It was initiated at the St Petersburg Tiger Summit in 2010.
Tigers all over the world are facing the threat of extinction. At the summit, many animal welfare organisations pledged to help these wonderful creatures, helping lend credence to the idea of dedicating a day to the tiger. They are still helping to raise funds to reach this goal.
Celebrating Tiger Day is a way to help raise awareness about the many threats tigers face, such as poaching, habitat loss, prey loss and human-tiger conflict, and through these, gain support for tiger conservation, as well as promote the protection and expansion of the wild tigers’ habitats.
At the 2010 St Petersburg Tiger Summit, when tiger range countries committed to the goal Tx2, i.e., doubling the population of wild tigers by 2022, the global wild tiger population was believed to be as few as 3200.
The tiger range countries number 13, including India, Nepal, Russia, Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The situation on the whole has improved slightly, but a lot more still needs to be done. Under the current scenario, it is predicted that the tiger may well be extinct within a few decades.
Siberian tiger, or Amur tiger, is the largest tiger subspecies (Joe Blossom/photoshot.com/ greatcatsoftheworld.wordpress.com)
India, where the resident tiger specis is the royal Bengal tiger, is one of the success stories with regard to the conservation of tigers. Project Tiger has, to a large extent, helped preserve (it has had its fair share of ups and downs over the decades) the tiger population of the country.
Tigers are intrinsically related to West Bengal too, the state being home to the only tiger population endemic to a mangrove forest – Sundarbans (which is also the world’s largest mangrove forest, spreading over Bangladesh and India).
One of the first steps towards protecting and increasing the number of tigers is to know the number of tigers in existence. Some have been successfully conducting national tiger counts on a regular basis, though a few are yet to take any action.
India is one of the few countries which had regular annual surveys to determine the number of big cats in existence in its numerous forests. Currently, wild tiger numbers are known for India, Nepal and Russia, who carry out regular surveys. Numbers will soon be known for Bhutan, Bangladesh and China, who are in the process of carrying out surveys. Wild tiger populations for Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam are still unknown.
WWF is calling on these countries to carry out surveys urgently. Systematic national surveys take 6-12 months to plan and a minimum of a year to complete, so these surveys must start now if an updated global tiger figure is to be released by the halfway point to Tx2 in 2016.
Royal Bengal tiger in the Sundarbans mangrove forest (thehindu.com)
Royal Bengal tiger is the national animal of India. The tiger is known
as the Lord of the Jungle and displays India’s wildlife wealth.
Strength, agility and power are the basic aspects of the tiger. The
royal Bengal tiger was declared the national animal of India in April
1973 with the initiation of Project Tiger, aimed at protecting the
tigers in India.
Celebrations in Kolkata
Wildlife enthusiasts were in for a treat with three key events themed on the magnificent animal -- an exhibition from Indian Museum's prestigious collection, a panel discussion involving leading Indian conservationists, including noted woman elephant trainer Parbati Barua from Assam, and the vibrant choreography of the age-old folk ritual from Odisha called ‘bagh nritya’.
Bagh nritya is a 17th-century art form, originating from the state's Ganjam district, in which dancers daub their entire bodies with yellow and black paint to resemble the tiger. Accessorised with a set of giant hand-crafted ears, a cloth tail and an anklet on one foot, the dancers attempt to invoke the tiger goddess through their dance steps.
Artist of international repute, Sanatan Dinda did a live body painting as a part of a saving the tigers campaign. Dinda transformed a man into a life-size figure of a tiger. Later, this man roamed around the corridors of the museum surprising the children.
The day-long events, organised by the Society for Heritage and Ecological Researches (SHER) and the Association for Conservation and Tourism, in collaboration with the Indian Museum, were open to all.
The bagh nritya dance form of Odisha (pinterest.com)
Sanatan Dinda (on the right) and the tiger figure (centre) (iamin.in)
Celebrations in other parts of India
Celebrations also took place in many other places in India.
For example, the Forest Department of the Maharashtra government organised seminars, awareness programmes and exhibitions on the day. The department also held various programmes at the district level and in Mumbai as well.
In Kerala, aimed at sensitising the public about the importance of conserving the tiger, the national animal of the country, the Forest and Wildlife Department conducted various programmes for students and the public on July 29. The tiger day contests were meant for students and the public from Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur, and Kasaragod districts. Painting and essay-writing competitions were held as well.
Major celebrations were also seen the world over.
A royal Bengal tiger at the Kanha Reserve Forest (savetigers.com)
Written by Anushtup Haldar for Team M3.tv
Lead image: eeingeorgia.org, wwf.ca, elliottneep.photoshelter.com