Project Tiger and Project Elephant, two significant conservation initiatives in India, have been merged under a new division called ‘Project Tiger and Elephant Division’ by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). Recently, the Prime Minister also commended the success of Project Tiger on its 50th anniversary.
Previous Proposal and Current Financial Situation
A similar proposal was made in 2011 to merge Project Tiger, Project Elephant, and Integrated Development under Wildlife Habitat. However, the plan was dropped after objections from experts on the National Board for Wildlife standing committee.
The actual fund allocation for tiger conservation has been dwindling since 2018-19, and the amalgamated budget of Project Tiger and Project Elephant in 2023-24 is lower than the previous year’s combined budget. While the merger aims to rationalize funding and improve conservation by reducing overlap in areas with both programs, the lack of funds and the confusion regarding fund division have raised concerns among experts.
Ministry of Environment and Forests initiated Project Elephant in 1992, aiming to provide financial and technical assistance to states in their efforts to manage the free-ranging populations of wild Asian Elephants. The primary objective of this project is to safeguard the long-term survival of elephants in their natural habitats by ensuring the protection of both the animals and their habitats, including migration corridors. Additionally, Project Elephant focuses on supporting research concerning elephant ecology and management, raising awareness of conservation among local communities, and enhancing veterinary care for captive elephants.
The Government of India introduced Project Tiger on April 1, 1973. This conservation initiative focuses on safeguarding the Bengal tiger and its natural habitats, aiming to prevent the extinction of the species while preserving ecologically significant areas as part of the country’s natural heritage. The project envisions designated tiger reserves as core breeding areas, allowing surplus tigers to migrate to neighboring forests. Adequate funding and dedication were mobilized to effectively protect and rehabilitate habitats under this ambitious program.
Concerns for Conservation Efforts
Wildlife experts argue that both projects have distinct challenges, and merging them might undermine the conservation of both iconic species. The National Tiger Conservation Authority, which already oversees leopards and rhinos in certain areas, has experience dealing with different species.
The conservation of both tigers and elephants is crucial for India’s biodiversity, and wildlife experts fear that the lack of clarity regarding fund allocation might affect their conservation programs significantly.
Key takeaways for competitive examinations
- Union Minister of The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change: Bhupender Yadav
- Chairperson of The National Tiger Conservation Authority: Prakash Javadekar