New Delhi: The number of tigers in India has increased by 30% since 2010 to 2,226 in 2014 according to the tiger census (All India Tiger Estimation 2014) released on Tuesday.
The numbers mark a significant improvement from 2006 when the number of tigers in India was estimated at 1,411.
“Around 7-8 years ago, we were worried about decreasing numbers of tigers. But we should now congratulate the National Tiger Conservation Authority for their efforts in improving the situation. We have today 70% of world’s tigers,” said environment minister Prakash Javadekar.
He also listed some of the initiatives of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) including the creation of special tiger protection force, a special programme for orphaned tiger cubs, efforts to control poaching and efforts to minimize human-animal conflict and encroachment.
K. Ullas Karanth, one of India’s best-known tiger conservationists, whose research on using camera traps to estimate tiger population was incorporated by the NTCA, said he had not yet studied details of how the country-wide and state-wide numbers were generated but “the tiger numbers for Karnataka look reasonable, based on our own independent data. Clearly good work has been done by the Karnataka forest department. Similarly, credit for tigers doing well in Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and other states should go to the state forest departments, primarily because they are the ones doing protection and management.”
“These states have done better because they have focused on effective patrolling, and in some cases like Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, on substantial voluntary village relocation schemes,” said Karanth, director for science, Asia, Wildlife Conservation Society.
In 2006, the number of tigers was estimated to be 1,411, which increased to 1,706 in 2010.
Karanth had raised concerns about the methodology used in the 2006 and 2010 estimations (see interview on page 15 21) and said even the 2014 census has only partially addressed these. The 2014 census used 9,735 cameras and monitored 378,000 sq. km of forests.
Launched in 1973 to check dwindling population of tigers in the country, India’s Project Tiger today includes 47 tiger reserves across 18 tiger range states and is trying to add a few more.
According to the report, the tiger population has increased in Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The Mudumalai-Bandipur-Nagarhole-Wayanad belt across Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala holds the world’s single largest tiger population with estimated 570 tigers.
However, the report revealed that number of tigers has gone down in states such as Odisha, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh due to poaching and insurgency.
The report is a preliminary one and the final is expected by March. “Such big jump was a surprise as we were hoping numbers to be between 1,800 and 1,900, and there is not much of extrapolation done this time as large number of camera trappings was used. We now have unique identification pictures of 1,540 tigers,” said Y.V. Jhala, one of the principal investigators in the estimation. Jhala added that 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”.
Rajesh Gopal, the head of the NTCA, said the “biggest challenge now is how to protect the tiger that go out of reserves, so we need corridors.”