Submitted by alvin on Mon, 2016-06-13 19:59 Bengaluru: Relentlessly poached and hunted to near extinction, the Indian tiger has an unlikely ally: cricket.Through the Cricketers For Tiger Conservation, an initiative of Indian cricketers, over 3,000 have signed up to volunteer for tiger conservation efforts in Karnataka in a span of just five years. Started in 2012 under the leadership of its founder Sandeep Patil, the initiative is seeking to cash in on the huge base of cricket fans for conservation efforts.The initiative also honours those who have done commendable work in tiger conservation. Every year, the initiative selects one person from the state forest department, who is working in tiger reserves, and honours the person with an award.“A staggering 48 tigers have been poached/ killed for profit in the last four months (2016),” says Joseph Hoover, member of the initiative, highlighting the scale of the challenge. “We have 2227 tigers in their natural habitat. We need to protect the tiger. But the tiger cannot be protected in isolation. We need to save its home. We cannot increase their numbers. It has to increase naturally, with increased habitat and protection.” Murali Vijay felicitated forest guard Keechana (Bandipur)Harbhajan Singh felicitated forest guard Govind (Nagarhole)Yusuf Pathan and Sunil Joshi honoured forest guard from Cauvery wildlife sanctuaryVarun Aaron, Sandeep Patil, Roger Binny and M P Ganesh (hockey Olypian) felicitated forest guard A Y kamble (Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve (now Kali Tiger Reserve) Hoover says the initiative has been trying to create awareness among the public and make the government sit up and take notice. “Over 3,000 young cricketers have taken pledge to spread awareness. The club which started with 247 members has nearly 480 members from national and international cricket fraternity,” says Hoover, adding that the initiative looked to honour the “real protectors” of the forest such as forest guards.Cricketers For Tiger Conservation annually holds cricket tournament in Bengaluru, Mysuru and Belagavi. This time the association is also planning to extend the tournament to Shivamogga, as it is close to reserve forest area.