The implementation of Project Tiger in India, 1973–1974, was justly hailed as a triumph of international environmental advocacy. It occurred as a growing number of conservation-oriented biologists were beginning to argue forcefully for scientifically managed conservation of species and ecosystems – the same scientists who would, by the mid-1980s, call themselves conservation biologists. Although India accepted international funds to implement Project Tiger, it strictly limited research posts to Government of India Foresters, against the protests of Indian and US biologists who hoped to conduct the scientific studies that would lead to better management and thus more effective conservation of the tiger. The foresters were not trained to conduct research, and in fact did not produce any of significance for the first 15 years of Project Tiger’s existence. The failure of biologists to gain access to India’s tigers in the 1970s was caused by many factors, but not least among them was a history of disdain among conservation-oriented biologists for government officials managing reserves, and the local politics of conservation. Project Tiger, then, serves as a case study for the discussion of the intersection of conservation biology with non-scientific concerns, including nationalism and the desire of the Indian government to more completely control its land.1I would like to thank the participants in the 2003 Southwest Colloquium for the Life Sciences for their constructive comments on an earlier version of this paper, as well as the two unusually helpful (anonymous) reviewers.
Bombay Natural History Society Conservation Biology India Indian Forestry Service Indira Gandhi Project Tiger Smithsonian Institution