||Tigers, the largest of the felids, are now a globally threatened species with only
approximately 3000 wild tigers surviving. India contains about 60% or 2000 of the
animals, yet despite aggressive conservation efforts the number of tigers is declining.
The causes of the decline are prey depletion, habitat destruction and poaching.
Over the past 30 years of tiger conservation efforts in the various protected areas
within India, success has been incredibly variable, with few documented cases of parks
were the numbers of tigers have risen, but many more cases of parks where tiger populations
have plummeted. There are very few scientific papers that assess the effectiveness
of conservation efforts and when it is considered, implementation rather than outcome
is evaluated. Recent literature suggests that evaluating outcomes in more predictive
of conservation success. This thesis attempts to use comparative research effectiveness
techniques, a methodology used to evaluate medical therapy effectiveness, to evaluate
tiger conservation in India.
Various tiger conservation experts were polled and a list of 7 successful protected
areas—Kanha, Corbett, Pench, Kaziranga, Bhadra, Bandipur, and Nagarhole—and 5 failed
protected areas—Palamau, Dampa, Panna, Sariska and Namdapha—were generated. A list
of variables that could impact outcome at these protected areas was generated and
included biologic (tiger density, prey density, area of the reserve, the presence/absence
of a biological corridor), geographical (the Indian State the reserve is in eco-region
of the reserve), economic (number of tourists, revenue from tourism, forestry, funding
per sq km) and socio-political factors (human population data, presence/absence of
a “conservation hero”, Park Management Effectiveness Rating, poaching).
The factors that were positively correlated with success included tiger density and
the presence of a biological corridor. Population density and level of funding did
not correlate with success or failure. Many of the successful reserves were in areas
of high human population density and many of the failures were in areas of low human
population density. Although not statistically correlated, the presence of a “conservation
hero” was seen in 5 of the 7 successes but in only 1 of the failures.
The lack of correlation between many of the independent variables evaluated and success
or failure of the tiger reserves has revealed that tiger conservation can be successful
despite factors such as high human population densities and only average funding to
the reserve. Comparative effectiveness research techniques can be used to evaluate