India’s Tiger Sanctuaries

Bengal tigers

As of 2014, the worldwide population of Bengal tigers numbered 2226. (Photo credit: Swapan Photography/Shutterstock)

Over a century ago, more than 100,000 Bengal tigers roamed India. Today, there are just over 2200. What caused such a drastic drop in numbers? And what can be done to save the Bengal tiger from extinction?

While small populations of Bengal tigers can be found in Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, and Nepal, the majority of these animals are found in India. Their major habitat is the mangroves of the Sundarbans, an ecosystem shared between Bangladesh and India. Listed as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in both countries, this region contains one of the largest mangrove forests in the world.

Historically, there were eight subspecies of tigers. In the 20th century, three of these subspecies went extinct, leaving only five remaining. All five remaining tiger subspecies, including the Bengal tiger, are endangered. The Bengal tiger is the most common of all the subspecies and its population accounts for half of all wild tigers alive today. Threats to Bengal tiger survival come from a variety of sources including

  • habitat loss due to a rapidly expanding human population in their territories,
  • the illegal wildlife trade,
  • the loss of prey, and
  • conflict with humans.

Beginning in the 1970s, the Indian government set aside wildlife parks and sanctuaries as a means to save the Bengal tiger from extinction. Today, 47 parks and sanctuaries account for over 50,000 square kilometers of protected land in India. These parks, staffed by government employees, are meant to discourage poaching and protect habitat from further degradation. As an apex species, the protection of the Bengal tiger in turn protects a variety of other plant and animal species that coexist in their habitat.

Over the past 10 years, ecotourism has grown significantly in India, at a rate of nearly 25 percent per year in some cases. The majority of these tourists are domestic travelers. In 2005, Travel Operators for Tigers (TOFTigers) was developed as a non-profit campaign with a goal to “protect tigers, wildlife, and wilderness areas through sustainable tourism.” Today, there are 43 lodges and resorts in protected wilderness areas that attract tourists from both India and around the world, all with the goal to see the majestic Bengal tiger in its native habitat.

More to Explore
National Tiger Conservation Authority
Bengal Tiger
Tiger Reserves in India
India Reports Nearly 30% Rise in Wild Tiger Population
National Geographic: Bengal Tiger

Country: India
Location: India is located in southern Asia. It is bordered by the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. It is bordered by Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Burma.
Area: 3,287,263 square kilometers. It is slightly more than 1/3 the size of the continental United States.
Climate: The climate ranges from tropical monsoon in the south to temperate in the north.
Terrain: The terrain of India includes upland plains, desert, Himalayan mountains, and flat to rolling plains.
Natural Resources: Arable land, bauxite, chromite, coal, diamonds, iron ore, limestone, manganese, mica, natural gas, petroleum, rare earth elements, titanium ore
Economics: $4.99 trillion (2013 estimate)
Environmental Issues: Air pollution, deforestation, desertification, growing human population, lack of potable water, overgrazing, soil erosion, water pollution
CIA – The World Factbook

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