NEW DELHI: After reviving its endangered tiger population, India is now helping three of its Southeast Asian neighbours with tiger conservation. India may relocate some of its tigers to Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar, where the big cats have either become extinct or are very few in number.
While Cambodia expressed its wish for tigers from India, the other two countries evinced a deep interest in learning about tiger conservation from India. Scientists from the three countries also visited tiger reserves in mid-December and were briefed about tiger re-introduction within the country.
India has asked them for an official agreement from their governments saying they are keen to have tigers and will take measures to protect them. “They need tigers to arrest the dwindling population. But first we need to be sure about their readiness. We also need to know that the re-introduction project has full support of their governments,” said an official of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
India is also discussing the possibility of a survey to ascertain the exact number of tigers in those countries and if the available existing forest area can accommodate tigers from India.
“We also have to see if the tiger can survive in the conditions there. Availability of prey base for tigers is another factor the Indian government will consider before taking a decision on sending the animals. Prey base, political will, forest area—until we are convinced about these factors, the decision will not be made,” the official said. The Indian government has no issues with relocation of tigers as it believes it could be a good diplomatic move, but it doesn’t want to invite criticism by doing it without proper groundwork.
Environment minister Prakash Javadekar has also received tiger adoption requests from countries where the big cats are extinct. He has also indicated a favourable response to the demands. India is also working with other countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Russia for tiger conservation.
The tiger estimation 2014 put the population of big cats in India at 2,226, an increase from 1,706 in 2010 and 1,411 in 2006. India is home to the world’s 70 per cent tigers in the wild. About 65 tiger deaths have been reported in 2015 so far.