Prime Minister Narendra Modi has released the tiger census – ‘Status of Tigers, Co-predators, Prey and their Habitat, 2018’ – that reports a 33% rise in the population of tigers in the country since the last tiger census.
- India now has 2,967 tigers from 2,226 in 2014.
- The census that is conducted every four years is showing that the tiger conservation efforts are bearing fruits.
- In 2006, when the first census was carried out, there were 1,411 tigers in the country.
- The latest survey was carried out for 15 months.
- Forest officials have survey 3,81,400 square kilometres of forested habitat.
- 26,760 camera traps were installed and wildlife biologists have surveyed 35 million images of wildlife, of which 76,523 were of tigers.
- Tigers are identified based on the stripes which are unique to each individual.
- The task of coordinating the census is with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), an Environment Ministry funded body.
- For estimating the population, WII has used a mobile application M-STrIPES (Monitoring System For Tigers-Intensive Protection and Ecological Status).
- The app measures the track the forest official taken for walking, geotags tiger census sighting and other animals which help in the estimation of tiger population.
- M-STrIPES is GPS-enabled and it tracks tigers, other animals, wildlife crime, and ecological observations.
Madhya Pradesh Tops
- Among the states, Madhya Pradesh has the highest population of tigers in the country with 526 tigers. It is followed by Karnataka – 524 and Uttarakhand – 442.
- Two states, Chattisgarh and Mizoram, saw a decline in tiger populations.
- The highest number of tigers is in Pench Tiger Reserve while Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve in TamilNadu showed maximum improvement since 2014.
St. Petersburg Declaration
- While releasing the report, the PM had stated that India had achieved the target of doubling its tiger population set in the St. Petersburg Declaration of 2010.
- In 2010, at St. Petersburg, Russia all the tiger range countries have agreed to a Global Tiger Recovery Program to double the tiger population by 2022.
- Some express skepticism over the increased number as there is a discrepancy in the 2018 counting methodology from 2014.
- In the 2014 survey, the cut-off age to count a tiger was 1.5 years or older, whereas in the new survey it is 1 year or older.
Economic Value of Reserves
- In the 2018 census, the government also measured the economic value of tiger reserves.
- By analysing the economic value of 10 reserves, the government claims that the tiger reserves value anywhere between Rs. 4200 crore to Rs. 16000 crore. This is in the form of carbon and timber conserved.
It is heartening to see a rise in tiger population amid decline across the world, the survival of these big cats are still in danger. The growing clamour for more development is leading to shrinking of their habitats.
Also, many conservation experts believe that the capacity for the country to hold free-ranging tigers as of now is anywhere between 2500 and 3000. Already many tigers are living outside their reserves posing threat to people and leading to rising man-animal conflicts. But, with better management and landscaping, the country has the capacity to hold 10000-12000 tigers in the wild. To achieve this, investment plans must be revisited and balancing development and conservation goals.