Photo used for representation purpose only.
| Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Union Environment Ministry plans to set up and coordinate an International Big Cat Alliance (IBCA), along the lines of the International Solar Alliance, an India-headquartered initiative to promote solar installations globally. The Union Cabinet approved the proposal on February 29.

“India’s global leadership in tiger conservation has been recognised. The IBCA, which will be headquartered in India and to which India has already committed ₹150 crore [for five years] will lead initiatives to disseminate good practices in conserving big cats,” Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav said in a press briefing on Friday.

Globally, the ‘big cats’ include the tiger, lion, leopard, snow leopard, puma, jaguar, and cheetah. Barring the puma and jaguar, the rest are found in India, with the latest – the cheetah – having been translocated under an experimental programme from Africa to Kuno in Madhya Pradesh.

16 nations sign on

There is currently a gap in many ‘big cat’ countries in availing resources, and in the optimal use of practices and processes. There is no international body addressing the conservation challenges of big cats across their range of habitats. The pioneering and long-standing tiger and other big cat conservation good practices which have been evolved in India may be replicated in many other range countries, Mr. Yadav said.

So far, 16 countries have given their written consent to be part of the IBCA. There are 96 countries that harbour ‘big cats’ and the alliance is also open to other countries, conservation organisations, scientific organisations, businesses, and corporates interested in supporting ‘big cats.’

Strengthen networks, training

The advantages of membership, an accompanying document noted, are a central common repository for technical know-how and a corpus of funds. The alliance will strengthen existing species-specific intergovernmental platforms, networks, and transnational initiatives on conservation and protection. Frontline staff in member-countries will be trained in eliciting local support for big-cat conservation, and research and development in wildlife monitoring. Local communities living in the vicinity of the forests will also be encouraged and trained in developing eco-tourism and livelihood opportunities.

An example of an ongoing initiative is a memorandum between India and Cambodia to help that country revive its extinct tiger population. There have been visits by Indian forest officials to ascertain the suitability of forests for reviving and sustaining a tiger population. An official from the Cambodian environment ministry said this week that a batch of tigers from India could be sent to Cambodia by the end of the year. Mr. Yadav, however, said that no concrete plans had yet been finalised for such an initiative.

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