Despite rampant urbanisation, India has scripted an exemplary story of tiger preservation. As per a survey released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 29 July 2019, on Global Tiger Day, the population of the country’s national animal has increased from 2,226 four years ago to 2,967 in 2018, a rise of 33 per cent. In other words India has 7 tigers out of every 10 roaming in the wild globally.
“The results of the just declared tiger census would make every Indian, every nature lover happy. However, the story which started from ‘Ek Tha Tiger’ (There was a tiger) and reached to ‘Tiger Zinda hai’ (Tiger is alive) shouldn’t end here. It should be ‘baaghon mein bahaar hai,” (There is happiness among tigers) Modi said in a lighter mode after releasing the All India Tiger Estimation Report 2018.
India can now boast of being home to over 75 per cent of the world’s tiger population. The worldwide population of these big cats stands at 3890 with Russia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand, Bangladesh and Bhutan being other key countries contributing to the remaining 25% count.
“Today, we can proudly say that with nearly 3,000 tigers, India is the safest places for tigers in the world. India has achieved a historic milestone. On Global Tiger Day, we reaffirm our commitment to conserve tiger population in the country. We are doing whatever we can to conserve the majestic animal,” said Modi calling upon heads of other countries to form an alliance of global leaders and erase the demand for illegal poaching in Asia.
According to the survey, one of the biggest wildlife counts in the world, Madhya Pradesh topped the list at 526, followed by Karnataka (524), Uttarakhand (442), Maharashtra (312) and Tamil Nadu (264). Chhattisgarh and Mizoram have registered a decline in their tiger numbers while the number in Odisha remained constant at 28. Tiger number have more than halved in Chhattisgarh from 46 in 2014 to 19 in 2018. Mizoram and northern West Bengal which had tiger signs in 2014 have not recorded any signs this time.
Northeast Hills too remained critically vulnerable and need immediate conservation attention.
Tiger occupancy was found to be stable at 88,985 km since 2014. New areas that were colonised by tigers in 2018 constituted 25,709 (28 per cent) km. The results are important given that India along with 12 other tiger range countries had committed to double the population of tigers in their territory by 2022, as part of the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) programme.
“Nine years ago it was decided in St Petersburg that the target of doubling the tiger population would be 2022, we in India completed the target four years earlier. This is one of the finest examples of ‘Sankalp se siddhi’ (attainment through resolve),” said the PM. The goal was set nine years ago, with the 2006 count of 1,411 taken as the base year.
Calling these estimates “encouraging,” Ravi Singh, CEO of WWF India, said that given the “immense pressure on India’s biodiversity,” the numbers speak of the commitment of the Government, local communities and citizens of India.
Rajesh Gopal, head of the Global Tiger Forum, hailed Government’s efforts and called for better strategies and need to think beyond protected areas.
Gopal explained, “Physical space gets reduced when you take into consideration the landscapes in which you have these reserves. Tigers being territorial animals cannot be packed in a small space because there will be increased competition for food, mating partners and prey base.
“Spaces outside the reserves are equally important for tigers, as male tigers move from place to place to disperse genes. The routes that tigers use to move from place to place are called corridors, which need to be identified and interventions are required. More importantly, community sensitivity and better management strategies are needed,” he said.
Qamar Qureshi, wildlife expert from Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India which was involved in the survey, agreed. “Now emphasis should be on good management protection and making the core areas inviolate besides ensuring safe habitat corridor for their conservation.”
One of the world’s largest wildlife surveys, the wildlife officials covered 3.81 lakh km of forested habitats in 20 tiger occupied States of India. A foot survey of 5.22 km was done for tiger signs and prey abundance estimation. Camera traps were deployed at 26,838 locations. These cameras resulted in 3.4 crore photographs of wildlife of which 76,651 were of the tigers. (The Pioneer)