Project Tiger gave the Royal Bengal tiger a second chance at life in India. Karan Singh, who was part of the national effort to save the big cat, shared how he began his work for Project Tiger. Singh was asked by Indira Gandhi to take over the Indian Board of Wildlife in 1969, which was led by the Maharaja of Mysore. While reviewing the papers, Singh found that the national animal was the lion, but it didn’t represent India well as lions were only found in one part of the country. Tigers, on the other hand, were found throughout India. Singh then initiated the actions required to make the tiger the national animal, and it was changed soon after.
Singh also helped establish Project Tiger after the tigers’ population had significantly decreased due to hunting. The Wildlife (Protection) Act was passed in 1972 with the aim of protecting wildlife in India and controlling poaching and smuggling of wildlife derivatives. On April 1, 1973, Project Tiger was launched at the Jim Corbett National Park. Singh’s consistent efforts with Indira Gandhi’s support brought awareness that tigers were an endangered species to the public.
Singh explained that tiger conservation is vital as they are at the peak of the pyramid, and their preservation helps conserve the surrounding environment and ecology. K.S. Sankhala became the first Project Director when they started with just nine reserves. Sankhala is now known as the Tiger Man of India. Today, there are 54 tiger reserves in India, and their population has increased to 3,167.
The first step taken for tiger conservation was to ban hunts immediately. Singh refrained from naming anyone, but there were people in the government involved in hunting.