April Fools’ Day may seem like an odd day to launch a serious effort aimed at preserving Bengal tigers, but that’s exactly what happened in 1973 when India initiated Project Tiger.
Project Tiger’s goal was to create reserves and sustainable places for the endangered animals to live. There were once as many as 40,000 tigers in India at the beginning of the 20th century, but those numbers plummeted because of hunting and human interference. By 1972, when a survey was conducted, there were only 1,800 tigers still in the country.
Today there are 53 tiger reserves in India, managed by Project Tiger as part of the National Tiger Conservation Authority. The reserves generally have a core-buffer policy, where the inner core is free of people and the outer area is a multi-use zone. In many places, locals have been at odds with the forest service because access to forest and grazing land was cut off. But in recent years, the two groups have tried to find a compromise. After the number of tigers dropped at one point to nearly 1,000, there were 1,700 counted in 2010.
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