The tiger is not only our national animal but is also crucial to the country’s food security. Most Indian rivers have either their origin or major catchment areas in forests inhabited by tigers. But by the mid-1960s, the tiger was almost on the brink of extinction due to hunting and habitat loss. The 1968 ban on tiger hunting and 1973 declaration of the setting up of eight prime tiger habitats as tiger reserves helped save this majestic creature. With 50 tiger reserves now, the tiger’s population in India is expected to cross 3,000 this year.
The creation of tiger reserves, with the tiger as the flagship species, resulted in the preservation of many rivers and bio-geochemical cycles essential for maintaining healthy forests. The river’s water — and the minerals and organic manure produced by bio-geochemical cycles — make agricultural lands nutrient-rich and productive. It has been observed that the agricultural lands near the tiger-bearing forests are very fertile. The soil water regime, the mineral and organic soil content of these lands are making the human communities richer and healthier. However, till date, the significance of the tiger in ensuring food security and livelihood for communities has been overlooked as an aspect of tiger conservation.