Worldwide tiger populations were decimated in the 19th and 20th centuries and continue to decline in the 21st century. This is largely due to habitat loss and poaching. Tiger habitat has been reduced to seven percent of the original lands once roamed by the huge cats. The tiger population once in the hundreds of thousands is now only estimated to be approximately 3,500 individuals.
India is home to the largest number of tigers with a recent census indicating there are approximately 1,706 tigers across seventeen Indian states. India was once home to more than 100,000 tigers, but now their current range has dwindled to just eleven percent of its original size. Poaching and conflicts with farmers continue to be major obstacles in the country for tigers in addition to the habitat destruction.
Recently India continued their efforts to protect their tiger population by banning tourists from large areas of many of the tiger reserves in the nation. However, India’s surging need for energy may be more detrimental to tiger populations than tourist groups according to Greenpeace.
India’s more than 1.2 billion people rely heavily on coal, especially as the country has the fifth largest reserves of the energy source in the world. India’s growing economy has created a greater need for energy and a growing carbon emission record. In 2011, India saw an increase of 8.7 percent in carbon emissions, a total of 140 million tons more than in 2010. India is one of the world’s largest polluters, just behind China, the United States and the European Union.
The concern for tigers does not involve carbon dioxide emissions but the coal itself. Unfortunately for tigers, where India has the largest portion of their coal reserves in also in prime tiger territory. Eighty percent of coal can be found in central India, but this is also home to thirty-five percent of India’s tigers (or just less than twenty percent of all wild tigers in the world).
Greenpeace has called for India to put a moratorium on the removal of forests for coal mines, especially as a significant increase in coal mines have occurred in the last few years. Greenpeace has indicated that many coal mines are being approved without necessity. Their recent report pushed India to put more emphasis on renewable energies, including solar and wind.
Unfortunately, India has suffered major blackouts in recent weeks and is likely not interested in scaling back coal mining during such a time period. However, Greenpeace has noted that the world’s tiger population is already severely endangered and the scale could be tipped against them in a small time frame.