|Tiger conservation programme overview|
|Motto||India Leads Tiger Conservation|
|Parent department||National Tiger Conservation Authority|
Project Tiger is a tiger conservation programme launched on April 1,1973 by the Government of India during Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's tenure. The project aims at ensuring a viable population of the Bengal tiger in its natural habitats, protecting it from extinction, and preserving areas of biological importance as a natural heritage that represent the diversity of ecosystems across the tiger's range in the country. The project's task force visualised these tiger reserves as breeding nuclei, from which surplus animals would migrate to adjacent forests. Funds and commitment were mustered to support the intensive program of habitat protection and rehabilitation under the project.
During the tiger census of 2006, a new methodology was used extrapolating site-specific densities of tigers, their co-predators and prey derived from camera trap and sign surveys using GIS. Based on the result of these surveys, the total tiger population was estimated at 1,411 individuals ranging from 1,165 to 1,657 adult and sub-adult tigers of more than 1.5 years of age. It was claimed that owing to the project, the number of tigers increased to 2,603–3,346 individuals by 2018. In a testimony to the success of Project Tiger, in 2022, 54th tiger reserve in India was declared in Ranipur Wildlife Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh, being the State’s fourth tiger reserve. 
Project Tiger's main aims are to:
The monitoring system M-STrIPES was developed to assist patrol and protect tiger habitats. It maps patrol routes and allows forest guards to enter sightings, events and changes when patrolling. It generates protocols based on these data, so that management decisions can be adapted.
Project Tiger was administered by the National Tiger Conservation Authority. The overall administration of the project is monitored by a steering committee, which is headed by a director. A field director is appointed for each reserve, who is assisted by a group of field and technical personnel.
The various tiger reserves were created in the country based on the 'core-buffer' strategy:
The important thrust areas for the Plan period are:
For each tiger reserve, management plans were drawn up based on the following principles:
By the late 1980s, the initial nine reserves covering an area of 9,115 km2 (3,519 sq mi) had been increased to 15 reserves covering an area of 24,700 km2 (9,500 sq mi). More than 1100 tigers were estimated to inhabit the reserves by 1984. By 1997, 23 tiger reserves encompassed an area of 33,000 km2 (13,000 sq mi), but the fate of tiger habitat outside the reserves was precarious, due to pressure on habitat, incessant poaching and large-scale development projects such as dams, industry, and mines.
Wireless communication systems and outstation patrol camps have been developed within the tiger reserves, due to which poaching has declined considerably. Fire protection is effectively done by suitable preventive and control measures. Voluntary village relocation has been done in many reserves, especially from the core area. Livestock grazing has been controlled to a great extent in the tiger reserves. Various compensatory developmental works have improved the water regime and the ground and field level vegetation, thereby increasing the animal density. Research data about vegetation changes are also available from many reserves. Plans include the use of advanced information and communication technology in wildlife protection and crime management in tiger reserves, GIS-based digitized database development, and devising a new tiger habitat and population evaluation system.
Project Tiger's efforts were hampered by poaching, as well as debacles and irregularities in Sariska and Namdapha, both of which were reported extensively in the Indian media. The Forest Rights Act passed by the Indian government in 2006 recognizes the rights of some forest dwelling communities in forest areas. This has led to controversy over implications of such recognition for tiger conservation. Some have argued that this is problematic as it will increase conflict and opportunities for poaching; some also assert that "tigers and humans cannot co-exist". Others argue that this is a limited perspective that overlooks the reality of human-tiger coexistence and the abuse of power by authorities, evicting local people and making them pariahs in their own traditional lands rather than allowing them a proper role in decision-making, in the tiger crisis. The latter position was supported by the Government of India's Tiger Task Force, and is also taken by some forest dwellers' organizations.