NEW DELHI: India’s tiger population has reached 2,226, a 30 per cent rise from 2010, when numbers stood at 1.706. This makes India home to 70 per cent of the world’s tiger population in the wild. Three southern states — Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala — have the world’s single largest population of big cats.
Releasing the Tiger Estimation 2014, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said that while the tiger population in the world is decreasing, the graph in India is on a rise as a result of combined efforts of forest officers, community and forest guards and a scientific approach.
Tiger population has increased in several states like Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, while it is on the decline in Odisha, Jharkhand and north Andhra Pradesh owing to poaching and insurgency. Goa for the first time has reported five tigers.
A total of 3.78 lakh sq km of forest area in 18 tiger states were surveyed, with a total of 1,540 unique tiger photos captured. About 9,735 camera traps were used to capture big cats.
State wise, Karnataka tops the list with 406 tigers followed by Uttarakhand with 340 tigers and Madhya Pradesh with 306.
In 2006, Madhya Pradesh had topped the list but slipped to third position in 2014.
The Mudumalai-Bandipur-Nagarhole-Wayanad complex spreading in 11,000 sq km in states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala holds the world’s single largest tiger population currently estimated over 570. Buoyed by this rise, Javadekar said India was willing to donate tiger cubs to other countries and play a key role in the global tiger conservation efforts. Countries like Cambodia and Laos have informally approached India seeking help in this direction.
The increase of 520 tigers compared to 2010 came as a big surprise to officials and scientists involved in the tiger estimation. This is a preliminary report and a detailed reports of tiger population in all 47 tiger reserves in the country is expected by March.
“These numbers were unexpected and it came as a surprise to us as we were hoping numbers to be between 1,800 and 1,900. There is not much of extrapolation done this time as large number of camera trappings were used. We have unique identification pictures of 1,540 tigers and 1,900 camera estimation. About 300 have been based on modelling where camera could not be used,” said Y V Jhala, one of the principal investigators.
He said the difference in the final report could be only 15-20 tigers. “Any future increase in tiger numbers would depend on how we balance development with conservation as we need to build more tiger reserves and increase prey base,” Jhala said.
“The biggest challenge now is how to protect the tiger that go out of reserves. We need corridors. I am not saying we make protected areas but we need to have a relook on the intensive building of infrastructure in such areas,” said Rajesh Gopal, Director, Project Tiger.
The third round of country level tiger assessment, done every fourth year, using the refined methodology of double sampling using camera traps has recorded an increase in tiger population since the first estimation in 2006. In 2006, tiger population was 1,411 and in 2010 it was 1,706. The third round of independent Management Effectiveness Evaluation of Tiger Reserves has shown an overall improvement in the score of 43 tiger reserves from 65 percent in 2010-11 to 69 percent in 2014.