Thursday, November 16, 2017

Tiger in India: A Species Invasion?

Tiger Pic Mukul Yadav
Species Invasion 

Or is it an invasive species? The tiger I mean!

From the cold confines of Siberia in the Palearctic region the tiger migrated into India about ten thousand year back. This happened much after the tectonic plate movement and the submergence into the Asian mainland.

A lot has changed by the tiger migration which have taken place all over Asia. The predator became tertiary carnivore and occupied the top of food chain in many ecosystems. In many cases it has become an indicator species as well. The prevalence in a region of this big cat does augur preservation and protection by the virtue of its indomitable presence. Even the Project Tiger for the conservation of this species in India benefits the whole ecosystem and its elements. Hence all seems to go well by this natural time bound invasion. Moreover it has not displaced the Asiatic Lion which was its precursor having arrived from the Ethiopian Region. The two big cats subscribe to two extremely diverse habitats in India.    

Cultural Invasions

Well is this not akin to an invasion similar to that of the Mongols, Moguls and or that by the British? This question deems pertinent as after all we too belonged to the same ecosytem aeons back. But this is not anymore since we have completely alienated ourselves from the natural World and created our own colony on Earth.

The demographic and cultural changes in India brought about by invasions are a major challenge to the country faced with an internecine battle between inherited cultural ethos and the adapted foreign practices and beliefs which will take a long time to naturalise. The division of the country is an example of the effects of disruptive invasions. But this phenomenon will continue to prevail in some form or other, it is our capacity to absorb and integrate that will result in existence in harmony. This virtue will eventually sustain a diverse but unified system which we call our country.    


More than the invasive animal and plant species, humans have managed to colonise the Earth in disastrous proportions, and multiplied to such extent that our survival is slowly being threatened by limitation of natural resources and our own irresponsible usage. This is nowhere more evident elsewhere than in a heavily populated country like ours. Another threats arises from our lifestyle which aggravates the consumption, and not to forget chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction. The rapidly evolving strains of deadly microbes is another invasion that is threatening our survival.      

A species invasion is understood as that which invades and then rapidly populates in an ecosystem that is not native to it. But this does not necessarily mean the specie is not compatible with  complex web of life and abiotic factors that prevail in the area under conquest. On the contrary the invasive species often propagates unchecked eventually damaging the habitat, disrupting the ecosystem and over powering native species to the detriment of environment. Many species have become by unnatural species invasion triggered by humans. The Dodo is a living example besides rabbits and dogs in Australia.    

The Tiger

Invasions are disruptive? Well not always, those which are time bound natural spread of species manage to settle down with ease learn to coexist and eventually become part of the ecosystem - ineradicable and indelible. In case of the tiger this has proven to be the case. The slow spread can be attributed to adaptive changes the animal had to undergo in order to survive under changing weather conditions and the new habitats containing unfamiliar elements. 

The tiger conservation in India is not a sentimental or elitist approach as it appears to some. It is downright sensible and practical  approach, keeping in tandem with our Vedic cultural inheritance that makes us realise the value of the environment and those of the elements contained within.       

The Battle      

After a successful habitation of the subcontinent, the survival of the tiger was insured in India. Hunting as sport was prevalent way back but it did not take a toll of the species. But with the development of modern  weapons hunting turned from sport into an elitist addiction and egotist fascination this proved to be destructive on wide scale. Another factor detrimental to the tiger's survival in India was the vermin concept that the British brought along with them. This resulted in mass destruction of not only the big cats but many other carnivores. 

The invasion of agricultural practices became more destructive to the habitats with population explosion in India. Unable to produce food for a rapidly growing populations habitats including the forests all over the country where cleared with fervour and converted into farm land. This also resulted in unchecked settlements into deep recess of remote confines which had been left untouched since aeons. There was no recourse, the country had been checkmated by the population explosion beyond redemption. This is what rabid industrial developments is auguring in the country resulting negative climate change, global warming and pollution of uncontrollable magnitude.               

The rapid conversion of habitats, hunting beyond  proportion and urbanisation of settlement sounds like a death knell for the tiger. During or post 19th century the animal's population began to dwindle unchecked. But it was in much later era that realisation dawned upon us of the species imminent extinction.   

Battle Continues 

The decline in the status of the tiger continued unabated post independence. It was in the sixties that the extreme threat level was acknowledged. The wildlife protection act and the initiation of Project Tiger Conservation Program by the Government of India has augured hope for the hopelessly embattled species on Earth.     

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