Bengal Tiger: Threats and Conservation Efforts

April 10, 2021Lu Shegay

Introduction

Bengal tigers are the species of tiger endemic to the Indian subcontinent. They are considered one of the biggest wild cats alive at the present time. They are also recognized as national animals of India and Bangladesh. Bengal tigers inhabit the lands of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Bhutan. According to the last assessed data by the IUCN Red List in 2010, the Bengal tiger is classified as Endangered species. The population of these animals continues to decrease - currently, less than 2000 tigers are left in the wild. The major threats to this species are poaching, loss and fragmentation of habitat, human population growth, and natural factors.


  • A national animal of India and Bangladesh;

  • The stripes are unique to each individual;

  • They have the largest canine teeth of any living cat;

  • Their retractable claws are built perfectly to climb trees;

  • They are mostly active during dusk and drawn when they use tall grass and trees to observe prey (water buffalo, deer, gaur, wild boar) and attack silently.


Bengal tigers perform most of their activities alone. Their general socialization consists of the mother and her cubs. Males’ sexual maturity usually occurs between 4-5 years old, females’ does at 3-4 years old.

Bengal Tiger Standing Next to Body of Water by Robert Stokoe from Pexels

Threats

Approximately 100 tigers die or are killed each year because of various reasons. In 2014, 418 Bengal tigers in the wild have died. In 2016-2017, about 115-122 tigers died in India. Habitat loss and poaching remain the dominant threats to Bengal tigers, which kills this species. Illegal trade of the tiger’s skin and body parts is the widespread practice in India, Nepal, and China. Unfortunately, despite the wildlife protection laws and regulations in these countries, the enforcement part remains unattended and is left in a low priority. It is also reported that tigers kill cattle, thus, are shot by farmers.


In Bangladesh, for instance, tigers are killed by professional poachers, hunters, trappers, and/or villagers. Some people kill these animals for profit, others do for safety concerns.


The reason for the demand in illegal wildlife trade is the use in Traditional Chinese medicine. Tigers’ bones have been one of the ingredients in medicine, being a muscle strengthener, treatment for rheumatism, or painkiller.


Human population growth is another threat to animals, it leads to infrastructure development, which causes the loss of habitat for lots of animals, including Bengal tigers.

"Royal White Bengal Tiger 11" by D Coetzee is marked with CC0 1.0

Conservation

Unfortunately, Bengal tigers are not protected by the CITES, which is the major international instrument that regulates trade in wild flora and fauna. Given the high demand for body parts and skin of the Bengal tiger in specific countries of Asia, this species is not covered by the scope of CITES, which is detrimental for the population of these animals.


India

In 1973, the country launched the “Project Tiger” that aimed to ensure a viable population of tigers and to preserve the areas of biological importance. In India, the Wildlife Protection Act provides that government agencies shall take strict measures to ensure the conservation of Bengal tigers. It was estimated by the Wildlife Institute of India that the population of tigers fell by 61% in Madhya Pradesh, by 57% in Maharashtra, and by 40% in Rajasthan.


For a quite long period of time, Bengal tigers have been kept in captivity for breeding or in zoos. In India, tigers were bred for the first time in the Alipore Zoo, Kolkata.


Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, for more than 100 years, animals and humans have been in conflict, which led to injuries and deaths. Due to these reasons, WildTeam has started working with local groups and the Bangladesh Forest Department to reduce the human-tiger conflict in the country. The organization also had volunteer teams that are trained to rescue tigers that are strayed in the village areas or threatened with killing. WildTeam is also focused to allow local communities to access the government funds for compensating the loss of livestock.


China

China also protects this species of tigers under its laws. Rare and endangered species of animals are considered under special protection. Generally, after proper examination and research, the authorized body of wildlife conservation creates the list of wild animals under special protection (Class I/ClassII) and reports to the State Council for approval and further publication. Tigers are now listed as protected species under Class I in the Wildlife Protection Law.

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