THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As the world is celebrating the International Tiger Day on Sunday, Kerala has reasons to cheer as tiger population has increased scientifically than ever in the forests of Kerala thanks to the tiger conservation measures and joint forest participatory management.
The 2014 wildcat census has put the number of tigers in the forests of Kerala at 136, a significant up from 71 recorded in 2010. However, experts say that the big cat population has seen a significant rise of 30-40 per cent in the present enumeration, which is underway, and the population is around 12 tigers in 100 sq-km forest area, a little higher than the national average, a senior Forest officer associated with the tiger conservation in Kerala told ‘Express’.
Stating that the tiger population in the forests of Kerala is optimal, he said the stable feline population paints a rosy picture of the wildlife management in the state and its economy as conserving tiger is equal to saving the ecosystem which is crucial for man’s own survival. The tiger conservation has a big role in the economy of the state which heavily depends on tourism. Being the dominant predators of the ecosystem, the feline population ensures that the numbers of herbivores like deer are kept balanced; otherwise the oversize of herbivore population will take a toll on the wildlife by grazing and consuming the trees and plants, he said.
The healthy ecosystem not only attracts tourists but also sustains the livelihood of people in terms of saving the forests from decimation and a healthy wildlife plays a major role in flood control, apart from hydrological services and securing watersheds. That is why Tiger is placed at the apex of the food chain. For instance, the Mullaperiyar dam irrigates around 90k hectares of agriculture land and Rs 30,000 is required to irrigate one hectare of land. It simply shows how the aesthetic, ethical and cultural value of tigers supports the livelihood of a human being, he added.
WWF Kerala state director Ranjan Mathew Varghese told ‘Express’ that the WWF has shifted its focus on the tiger habitats in North India as the tiger conservation in Kerala praiseworthy. The baseline survey conducted by the WWF recently recorded the movements of a total of 104 tigers in Paramabikulam, Wayanad, and Eravikulam. It means the number is very healthy in the state and there is no need worry over the feline population in Kerala, as the baseline can spot around 104, the actual number would be much higher than this, he added.
Arul Badusha, a conservationist from the Wildlife Conservation Society, said that though the feline population is stable in the forests of Kerala, the state has to give equal importance to create awareness about the need to save the tiger in areas such as Wayanad, home to the highest number of tigers in Kerala. We have two tiger reserves: Paramabikulam and Periyar. Declaring Wayanad as another tiger reserve will ensure more funds for the conservation of wildlife which will eventually contribute to the local economy,” he said.
- Fall in number of large-bodied vertebrates like tigers leads to increase of herbivore population, which in turn results in forests getting decimated
- Tigers feed on herbivores such as spotted and sambar deer, bison in forests, keeping their population in check and helping to preserve the forests.
- Tiger habitats also provide critical ecosystem services such as flood control and hydrological management and securing watersheds