Tiger Population in India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi released the all-India estimation — ‘Status of Tigers, Co-predators, Prey and their Habitat, 2018’.

Where the Tiger Count does stands?

  • The tiger population of India has jumped to an estimated 2,967, a rise by 33% over 2,226 reported in 2014.
  • There was an incredible 210% rise from 1,411 recorded in 2006.
  • The tiger population across states is as follows: MP-526, Karnataka: 524, Uttarakhand: 442, Maharashtra: 312, Tamil Nadu: 264, Assam: 190, Kerala: 190.
  • The biggest increase was witnessed in Madhya Pradesh where there was an increase by a massive 218 individuals (71%) from 308 in 2014 to 526. In Maharashtra, the number has gone up from 190 to 312 (64%), and in Karnataka, from 406 to 524 (118, or 29%). Uttarakhand has gained over 100 tigers (340 to 442; 30%).
  • The tiger population witnessed a decrease in the state of Chhattisgarh. There were about 46 tigers in 2018 but this number was reduced to 19 in the recent census.
  • No tiger has been found in the Buxa, Palamau and Dampa reserves.
  • Since tigers are not confined by state boundaries conservationists prefer to talk about tiger numbers in terms of landscapes rather than of states.
  • The five tiger landscapes of India are Shivalik Hills and Gangetic Plains, Central Indian Landscape and Eastern Ghats, Western Ghats, North-East Hills and Brahmaputra Plains, and the Sundarbans.

How the census was carried out?

  • In phases 1 and 2 the census was undertaken by the forest department in forest areas to collect signs of tiger presence like scat and pugmarks.
  • Enumerators walked paths called line transects to estimate the abundance of prey. This was followed by a sampling of plots along the transects to assess habitat characteristics, human impact, and prey dung density.
  • This information was plotted on the forest map prepared with remote-sensing and GIS application in phase 3.
  • In the last and fourth phase, data were extrapolated to areas where cameras could not be deployed.
  • A point which has to be considered here is 2014, tigers aged 1.5 years or older were counted. The current report has the cut-off age of 1 year.
  • Mobile application M-STrIPES (Monitoring System For Tigers-Intensive Protection and Ecological Status) used for Tiger census

Factors which led to an increase in population?

The success for the increase in tiger population can be attributed to increased vigilance and conservation efforts by the Forest Department. Various steps in this direction are enumerated below:

  • The number of tiger reserves went up to 50 in 2018 from 28 in 2006. This resulted in a healthy increase in core area populations. As a result, there were migrations to areas outside the core. Hence in 2018 census has found tigers in newer areas.
  • There was also an increased focus on tigers even in the areas under the territorial and commercial forestry arms of Forest Departments. The brightest spot in the non-protected tiger-bearing areas is the Brahmapuri division of Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, which has more than 40 tigers.
  • Increased vigilance has resulted in poaching rackets being crushed. As a result, there has been no organised poaching by traditional gangs in Central Indian landscapes since 2013.
  • This increased protection has encouraged the tiger to breed. Since tigers are fast breeders when conditions are conducive there was a contributing factor for increasing populations.
  • The rehabilitation of villages outside core areas in many parts of the country has led to the availability of more inviolate space for tigers.

The estimation exercises have become increasingly more accurate over the years. As a result, it is possible that many tigers that eluded enumerators in earlier exercises were counted this time.

St Petersburg Declaration

The 13 tiger home range countries in 2010 had committed to double the global tiger population by 2022. India has achieved the status well in advance. The tiger home range countries are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

New Threats to the Beast

Relaxations in norms to allow widening of highway and railway networks are the new threats alongside old ones of retaliatory poisoning and poaching.

Upgrading Infrastructure and Threat to Existence

The report on management effectiveness of tiger reserves has rated Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh as the best in terms of good management practices which fairly commensurate with an increase in its tiger numbers. The National Highway 7 which connects Pench and Kanha tiger reserves, has just been widened. Tigers along with other animals they prey on find it hard to cross the roads. For Example, a tiger was died near Dehradun in 2016 after being hit by a speeding vehicle.

After there were widespread protests and widespread pressure from citizens and environmentalists, the Madhya Pradesh forest department built underpasses meant for wildlife through NH7. But the experience along the spanking new highway in Maharashtra suggests others vulnerabilities. The highway had barriers on the road and a tiger was recently seen climbing the barrier to cross the road. Further, the Ken-Betwa river interlinking project is expected to submerge 100 sq. km of Panna Tiger Reserve.

After pressure from environmentalists and intervention by the Supreme Court, night traffic was banned in the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. But the industrial and the political lobby of Kerala is exerting pressure on the Karnataka government to reverse the ban.

Most National Highways are slated for widening and upgradation in coming years and most tiger reserves have State or National Highways around them. Apart from highways, railway and irrigation projects are coming up in tiger reserves. All these pose a serious threat to the existence of Tigers.

Hence while taking the infrastructure upgradation projects such as extending Highways or building irrigation projects, due attention must be given and cost-benefit analyses must take into account the need of the wild animals. Tigers must not be made to swim across dams, cross highways, dash across railway lines, not eat livestock



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