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Ecology Vs Economy: a view at decline in number of Big Cats across western ghats

big cats number declining in western ghats

India’s rich biodiversity is an essential asset to the country. But, the conflict between economic development and environmental conservation continues to threaten wildlife. On April 9, 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized that India does not believe in the conflict between ecology and economy, but instead prioritizes coexistence between the two. The PM added, [India] has pledged to promote sustainable development. However, despite these commitments, the decline of tiger populations in Western India reflects the ongoing conflict between economic development and environmental conservation.

Western Ghats
Western Ghats | Photo: 1940744 Shreshtha/ Wikimedia Commons

The western ghats, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a biodiversity hotspot that supports a wide range of plant and animal species, including tigers. However, the increasing human population and rapid development in the region have led to the loss and fragmentation of tiger habitats. Resulting in a decline in their populations. The conflict between development and wildlife conservation has been a long-standing issue in the region. Furthermore, despite the government’s efforts to balance the economy and ecology, the decline in the tiger population continues.

Decline in Number of Tigers Across Western Ghats, says data

According to the 2021 Tiger Census Report, India’s tiger population has increased from 1,411 in 2006 to 2,967 in 2018. This increase has been a significant achievement in India’s efforts to conserve tigers. However, the Western belt of India has seen a decline in tiger populations despite the overall increase in the country’s tiger population. The Western Ghats, which is one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots, has lost nearly 80% of its forest cover in the last century. This has resulted in a loss of tiger habitats and increased human-tiger conflict.

The conflict between economic development and environmental conservation is not new in India. The country has a long history of balancing economic development with environmental conservation, and it has not always been successful. The expansion of industries and urbanization has resulted in the loss of natural habitats and the displacement of local communities. And that has led to social and environmental consequences.

Causes of decline of the population of big cats

The primary cause of the decline in tiger populations in Western India is the conflict between economic development and environmental conservation. The expansion of highways, railways, and industrial projects has led to the destruction of forests and the fragmentation of tiger habitats. This has resulted in tigers being pushed into smaller and more fragmented areas. This increased their vulnerability to poaching and human-tiger conflict. The construction of these projects has led to the felling of trees and the destruction of forests, which are critical habitats for tigers. Additionally, the increase in human population and agricultural activities has further contributed to habitat loss, leading to the fragmentation of tiger habitats.

Human-Tiger conflict

Human-tiger conflict is another significant issue in the western ghats. As the human population increases, the chances of encounters between humans and tigers increase, leading to incidents of conflict. These conflicts often result in the death of tigers, either due to retaliation by humans or accidents.

For example, in 2021, a tigress was killed by a vehicle in the Nagarahole National Park in Karnataka, and in 2022, a tiger killed a man who entered the forest to collect firewood in the Umred-Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra. Instances of human-tiger conflict have been on the rise in the Western belt in recent years.

In January 2022, a tigress attacked and killed a woman in Maharashtra’s Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve. In another incident, a tiger was found dead in the Bor Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra‘s Wardha district, and the cause of death was suspected to be poisoning. These are just a few examples of the conflict that exists between humans and tigers in the Western belt.

Despite the government’s efforts to conserve tigers and their habitats, the decline in tiger populations continues. The launch of Project Tiger in 1973 and the strengthening of laws and penalties for poaching and illegal trade in tiger parts are significant steps toward conservation. However, more needs to be done to address the root causes of the tiger population decline, such as habitat loss and fragmentation.


In conclusion, India’s commitment to balancing ecology and economy is commendable. But, the decline in tiger populations in the western ghats of India is proof that there is still work to be done. Habitat loss and fragmentation and human-tiger conflict are significant issues that must be addressed through a landscape-level approach to conservation. In addition, the incorporation of environmental considerations into development planning. The government’s efforts, along with the participation of local communities and other stakeholders, are crucial in ensuring the long-term survival of tigers and other wildlife in the region.

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  • With pen in hand and a passion for our planet, I dive deep into the world of environmental analysis. Join me as we uncover the secrets of sustainability and create a greener future together.