Tigers in TN forests make a giant leap, numbers up four-fold in 16 years

The NTCA officials said the connectivity of protected areas along the Western Ghats is some of the best in the country.
(File Photo | EPS)
(File Photo | EPS)

CHENNAI: From 76 tigers in 2006, Tamil Nadu is now home to 306 big cats, a four-time increase that could be achieved by only a few other states like Maharashtra and Kerala. The latest nationwide figures for tigers in the wild were released on Saturday on the occasion of Global Tiger Day. The report titled ‘Status of Tigers: Co-predators and Prey in India - 2022’ was released by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

Compared to the last census in 2018, Tamil Nadu has recorded an increase of 42 tigers. Among the five tiger reserves in the state, Mudumalai recorded the highest population. The NTCA report says there are 114 resident tigers in Mudumalai, and overall there are 167 tigers (frequent and occasional movers) that are utilising the reserve.

Environment Secretary Supriya Sahu said, “At the government level, efforts to increase the habitat size by bringing more area under reserve forest and minimising human disturbance in the buffer zones are all bearing fruit.”

State chief wildlife warden Srinivas R Reddy told TNIE it’s a very healthy number, adding, “I don’t expect the number to rise significantly in the future. The population has reached the saturation point. There would be a jump in Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve alone. As per our own assessment, there are about 15-17 tigers, but during the latest census only five were accounted for.”

He said the Western Ghats landscape, which currently houses 1,087 tigers, is the perfect haven for the genetic dispersion of the keystone species. “In the long run, the Central Indian landscape that currently has 1,439 tigers may lose its charm, considering the increasing fragmentation of the habitat.”

Reddy said the five tiger reserves - Nagarhole, Bandipur, BRT in Karnataka; Mudumalai, Satyamangalam in Tamil Nadu - combined is the biggest contiguous tiger habitat in the world and also has the highest number of tiger, in excess of 800. “The forest department will continue to strive for improving the habitat and work on better protection measures,” he said.

Akash Deep Baruah, PCCF (Project Tiger), told TNIE the forest department has strengthened the protection measures. As of now, there are 238 anti-poaching camps in the five tiger reserves with a total strength of 902 anti-poaching watchers. “The modernisation of forest force is also being done. The tigers are prolific breeders, however, the population size will boil down to the survival rate of the cubs. To ensure the optimum survival rate, we have to keep the habitat healthy.”

The NTCA officials said the connectivity of protected areas along the Western Ghats is some of the best in the country. However, with increasing human footprint and development, there is an increase in the interface between humans and wildlife. While wildlife in the human-dominated landscape is a cultural part of the Western Ghats, there is increasing tension between humans and megaherbivores and carnivores.

“There is utmost need to address this issue if we are to retain one of the world's biodiversity hotspots. The other major concern in Western Ghats is the spread of invasives in large tracts of protected areas. It is necessary to contain this spread, to ensure the survival of native flora and subsequently reduce the impact it has on flora, fauna, soil and habitat as a whole,” the NTCA added.

Stripes and figures

Compared to the last census carried out in 2018, Tamil Nadu has recorded an increase of 42 tigers in 2022

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