These objectives have been achieved as can be seen from the fact that the tiger population in the country has risen from less than 2500 in 1972 to more than 4300 in 1989. Number of tiger reserves has increased from 9, covering an area of 14,000 sq. kms. In 1973 to 27, covering an area of 37761 sq. kms. In 2002. The main threat to the tiger is due to poaching. Project Tiger is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme. The 2010 National tiger assessment estimated the total Population of tigers in India as 1706.
In 1972, the Wildlife (protection) Act was passed by Parliament and the tiger was listed as an endangered species.
There are 39 tiger reserves covering an area of 0.38 lakh sq.km. In 17 states, in the country.
Of these tiger reserves, Nagarjuna-sagar tiger reserve in Andhra Pradesh with an area of 3,568 sq kms is the largest, while Pench tiger reserve in Maharashtra with an area of 257 sq. kms is the smallest. Bandipur (Karnataka) tiger reserve is the first tiger reserve (1973-74) in the country and Bori, Satpura and Panchmari tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh are the latest (1999-2000).
Although named after the tiger, the project symbolizes a comprehensive wildlife conservation effort for the simple reason that the tiger is at the apex of the pyramidal eco-complex, the intermediate and the base strata of which are constituted respectively by the prey animals (herbivores) and the vegetation.
An ecologically viable habitat for the tiger presupposes the incorporation of a viable base of herbivorous prey animals supported by an adequate foundation of the fodder supplying vegetation. Needless to say, the protection of the habitat and the animals from extraneous damaging and disturbing causes is another vital prerequisite.
It may be relevant here to mention that like the forests, the wildlife is a renewable natural resource and if all the planned programmes are effectively executed, in a few decades we should again have teeming populations in several tracts and can even poise ourselves for significantly regulated cropping.
The immense recreational value of the wildlife reserves in the present machine-age cannot be overemphasized. Besides, wildlife tourism can be increased manifold to bring sizeable returns in the shape of foreign exchange and the generation of employment potential in the tourist industry.
The elephant habitat has shrunken over the years, and poaching for elephant tusks has endangered the species. Project Elephant was launched in 1991-92 to assist States having wild elephants to ensure long term survival of identified viable populations of elephants in their natural habitat. At present, about one lakh sq km is covered under Project Elephant, out of which approx 0.28 lakh sq. km. is inside Protected Areas.
In India, elephants are mainly found in rain forests of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala; West Bengal, Bihar, Central and Western region, foothills of Himalaya in north-east and Uttar Pradesh. The project is being implemented in 12 states with the notification of Uttar Pradesh Elephant Reserve in the year 2009 the total number of Elephant Reserve in the Country has become 27.
Gir Lion Project:
The Gir forest in the Saurashtra peninsula of Gujarat is the only surviving habitat of the Asian lion, Panthera leon persica. Clearing of forest for agriculture, excessive cattle grazing and other factors led to decline in the lion population. The Gir National Park has a total area of 258.71 sq. kms. With a total of 284 lions in it.
The tiger is the National animal of India and the peacock the National bird.
Crocodile Breeding Project:
The project started from a proposal for development of a crocodile farming industry in India. Crocodile husbandry work was undertaken with a view to develop sanctuary. A total of 16 crocodile rearing centres have been developed in the country in eight States. Eleven sancuaries have been declared under the project.
The centrally sponsored scheme conservation of Rhinos in Assam was introduced in 1987 and was continued for effective and intensive management of rhino habitat. The number of rhinos has increased from 1591 in the year 1989 to 1855 in 1992.
Snow Leopard Project:
This project is being undertaken to create 12 Snow-Leopard Reserves throughout the Himalayas.
The concern about chiru mainly started in 1992 when George Schaller, a wildlife expert, claimed that the chiru was shot and then fleeced, to make Shahtoosh shawls. This shawl is as soft as a baby’s skin; it can be passed through a ring.