John Banovich spent February of 2002 traveling in India. His experiences in Bandhavgarh, Konar and Ranthambhore National Park is where he first encountered wild tigers. This life enhancing experience was the inspiration for the painting, Jewel of India. In an effort to support the dramatic decline of the wild tiger, Banovich has joined forces with the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). Founded in 1994 by its Executive Director, renowned tiger conservationist Belinda Wright, the Wildlife Protection Society works to help avert India's wildlife crisis by providing urgently needed support and information to combat the escalating illegal wildlife trade, particularly the illicit trade of tiger parts. It has now broadened its focus to deal with human-animal conflicts and provides support for research projects. An important element of the Society’s work is WPSI’s countrywide network of investigators. Developing information collected through this network, the WPSI team assists and liaises with Government enforcement authorities to bring about the arrest of offenders and seizure of wildlife products. A WPSI cell of expert lawyers supports the prosecution of important wildlife cases and reviews wildlife laws and campaigns for constructive amendments.
With a team of committed environmentalists, WPSI is one of the most respected and effective wildlife conservation organisations in India. It is a registered non-profit organisation, funded by a wide range of Indian and international donors. The Society’s Board Members include leading conservationists and business executives.
The tiger population in India is officially estimated to be between 1,571 to 1,875. Many of the tiger populations across the nation, particularly those outside protected reserves, face a variety of threats, including habitat fragmentation, encroachment, and poaching and developmental projects. These problems are directly or indirectly linked to anthropogenic factors. Decades of scientific research on tigers and their prey have provided us with a set of guidelines to develop and design protected areas to help the species survive. However, these reserves protect only a fraction of tiger habitat, and most are under severe human pressure. In the last few years, tiger poaching has increased dramatically, fueled by illegal trade in tiger body parts.
Despite all these problems, India still holds the best chance for saving the tiger in the wild. Tigers occur in 18 States within the Republic of India, with 10 States reportedly having populations in excess of 100 tigers. There are still areas with relatively large tiger populations and extensive tracts of protected habitat. We need to make a concerted effort to combat poaching and habitat loss, if this magnificent animal is to survive into the future.