Jungle Book Memories

Paul Murphy on the Raj pioneers who set in train thoughts of conservation in independent India.

India remains Asia's most important preserve for wildlife. However, there has been a drastic decline in the number of big game. It was in the late 1960s that Indians began ringing alarm bells over the disappearance of wild cats, elephants and rhino. Before the Second World War there were thought to be over 40,000 tigers. However, by the late 1970s tiger numbers were believed to have fallen as low as 1,800, poaching for international trade being the biggest problem.

The 1972 Wildlife Protection Act, instigated by Indira Gandhi's government, was the first serious attempt to tackle the crisis. A major effort since then has seen tiger numbers grow to more than 3,500, although the figures are disputed. Conservationists remain deeply pessimistic about the future of big game because of the profits for poachers. Elephant numbers have fallen to 20,000, and one-horned rhinos to only 1,900.

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