Sariska Tiger Reserve, created in in 1978, is part of a larger national wildlife sanctuary in the Alwar district of India's Rajasthan state that was once a favored royal hunting ground. A tropical deciduous forest with plenty of hills and valleys, the reserve contains a variety of animals. In addition to its exotic fauna the reserve is home to several sites of historical interest. In 2005, however, it was determined that there are no tigers left.
During India’s pre-independence era, which ended in 1947, the area belonged to royalty who ruled over Alwar. As their primary hunting ground it was heavily protected. In 1955, the government declared the rich natural area a wildlife sanctuary and forbade any hunting, snaring or capturing of animals within the reserve. Project Tiger, a government program devoted to preservation of the tiger population in India, established the Sariska Tiger Reserve in 1978, with a tentative National Park designation in 1982.
Sariska covers 538 square miles (866 km) and conforms to a core-buffer strategy of protection. A 229 mile (369 km) buffer around the Sariska Tiger Reserve holds several villages, which have created the need for roads that crisscross the reserve and endanger wildlife. Forestry activity, grazing and human disturbance are barred within the 309 square mile (497 km) core area. Pilgrims and tourists often visit historical sites contained in the park, creating further intrusion.
The 17th-century Kankwadi fort, an abandoned medieval stronghold, is located within the park. Sariska Palace, which was used as a royal hunting lodge of king Maharaja Jai Singh of Alwar, and a temple in Pandupol are situated in the center of Sariska Tiger Reserve. Pilgrims traveling to the Pandupol and other temples in the area have unfortunately made traffic and crowding a threat to the ecosystem of the area. Use of local trees and grasses for fuel and fodder have been somewhat controlled by eco-restoration in the area, along with forestry education.
Animals such as hyena, blue bulls, several species of small antelopes and smaller cats inhabit the thick forest of Sariska Tiger Reserve. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) set up Project Tiger in 1973, recognizing the need for the preservation of India's Bengal tiger population. The cats are heavily endangered by poaching and habitat encroachment all over the world. While the market for fur has diminished somewhat, body parts are still highly sought after in some types of Asian medicine. Reducing the reproductive population causes inbreeding detrimental to the animals’ survival as a species.
In early 2005, a two-month observation by the NTCA determined that no tigers remained in Sariska Tiger Reserve. Initial reports noted no direct sightings, and a distinct lack of signs pointing to an active population. A 2001-2002 census had recorded around 25 tigers living in the reserve. The NTCA tried to import a male and two females from Ranthambore National Park, adding a third later, but the breeding population was too small. It was finally determined that poaching had resulted in complete extermination of the Sariska tigers.