Saving the tiger

Those people lucky enough to have seen a tiger in the wild often speak about their experience in hushed tones.

For many, it's just a fleeting glimpse of black and orange darting through the trees. Others are lucky enough to get even closer. But any sighting of this rare and magnificent beast is enough to get the heart racing.

Coming face to face with this powerful, graceful and horrifically endangered beast is so rare that it has been described as an almost spiritual experience.

India is home to around 60% of the world's tiger population. In 2010, a study of 41 tiger reserves estimated there was around 1706 tigers left in India.

Tiger monitoring efforts began in 2006, with the launch of the All India Tiger Estimation program. Monitoring was initially done every four years, but the latest numbers prompted the government to announce an intensive, annual program to start in November this year.

Saving the tiger is a complex issue, with no simple solutions. It faces threat from loss of habitat, the introduction of mining, hydroelectric dams, highways and the ever-present poachers. Tiger poaching has increased dramatically in the past few years, fuelled by illegal trade in tiger bone, which is thought to have near-magical powers in traditional Chinese medicine.

The government's latest initiative is called Phase IV, and it will continue the work of the All India Tiger Estimation program.

In Phase I, field data collection was conducted by trained employees who were required to follow a strict protocol. Phase II involved analysing the status of tiger habitats using satellite data. Then Phase III used camera trapping to identify individual tigers by their markings. This information was then used to estimate tiger numbers in sampled sites.

Phase IV is the next step, and will involve setting 25 double-sided camera traps per 100 square kilometres.
The data will provide a yearly indication of tiger numbers around the country, and will be critical in the long-term management and conservation of tiger populations.

The project is being developed by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). These organisations will work with experts to estimate the existing numbers of tigers and their prey.

Peregrine offers a three-day extension on all its Indian trips, where you can visit Ranthambore National Park to search for the elusive Royal Bengal tiger. We take responsible tourism very seriously, and always aim to be the industry leader in our work.. This trip, like all others, has a focus on social and environmental responsibility.

Ranthambore National Park was one of the original nine parks involved in Project Tiger, which was launched in 1973. So it has a long history of tiger conservation.

You'll be stunned at the beauty of Ranthambore, which is dominated by a 10th century fort that overlooks the former hunting ground of the maharajas. It consists of dry, deciduous woodland punctuated by streams, lakes, forest trails and rocky outcrops. A lack of undergrowth makes this park ideal for wildlife spotting. It is home to some of India's most exotic wildlife, including nilgai, chinkara (Indian gazelle), sambar deer, chital (spotted deer), langur monkey, mugger crocodile and over 300 species of birds.

But the king of this jungle is Royal Bengal tiger. And thanks to these recent efforts by the Indian government and the tireless work of many conservation organisations, the chance of meeting one of these awe-inspiring creatures is becoming more and more of a possibility.

Learn more about Peregrine's three-day extension tour to Ranthambore National Park. Or read our brochure online.

Now is the time to stop dreaming and start planning your Indian experience. Book by 31 July 2011 and get 10% off all* Peregrine trips. But hurry, time is running out and the tiger won't wait forever.

What is the most incredible animal you've seen in the wild? Leave a comment below, then head to Twitter or Facebook to keep the conversation going.

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