The Bengal Tiger is one of the world’s most beautiful and iconic species. It is also one of the most endangered. In India, fewer than 1,500 of these great cats exist in the wild, and their numbers are continuing to plummet due to poaching, habitat destruction, and conflicts with humans. At this rate, the tiger will be extinct in the wild within five years.
That’s why I was shocked to learn that the government of the Indian state of Maharashtra has just given the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM) permission to clearcut over 96,300 acres of critical tiger habitat.
The lush forest, which is part of the largest block of viable tiger habitat in India, is to be stripped, sold, and replaced with commercial teak and bamboo plantations. FDCM is a wholly-owned state government company engaged in commercial extraction of timber, with zero wildlife management practices in its areas.
Even worse is that nearly 50,000 acres of this logging concession is in Lendezari, a dense, high-quality forest between the Pench and Nagzira tiger reserves. These two reserves alone are home to at least fifty wild tigers and their cubs.
Lendezari serves as a critical wildlife corridor, allowing tigers to move from one reserve to another in order to breed. The Lendezari region is so important to biodiversity that there were once plans to permanently protect it as a wildlife refuge. Without Lendezari, the tiger’s habitat will become even more fragmented, isolating populations and greatly decreasing genetic diversity. Fragmented forests also make tigers more vulnerable to poaching and human conflict.
If Lendezari is logged, it could be a death knell for India’s last tigers - unless we act now.
It is up to Maharashtra’s Principal Forests Secretary, Praveen Pardeshi - who is also the director of FDCM - to review the plans and make a decision. Pardeshi insists that logging is good for wildlife, saying:
"Maximum areas under forest, or for that matter, wildlife, are surviving healthily only in countries which intensively log forests."
We have to tell Mr. Pardeshi and the FDCM that logging is not conservation, and put a stop to this ill-thought plan. Tigers have already lost almost 76% of their Indian habitat over the last 100 years. We simply cannot allow them to lose any more.
It's up to you to be the voice of the tigers. Let's roar!
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