Insights into Editorial: India’s tiger population doubles in a dozen years
According to the latest tiger census, India’s tiger population has doubled in the past dozen years, a significant achievement for the country’s wildlife conservation efforts.
Releasing results of the 2018 census, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India was now “one of the biggest and most secure habitats of the tiger.” India estimates that over 75 percent of the world’s tiger population now resides in the country.
India is now home to 2,967 tigers, up from 1,411 in 2006 when it conducted its first national survey. The last census in 2014 had counted 2,226 tigers.
The uptick in the tiger population is good news for India, which has grappled with human-wildlife conflict amid rapid urbanization.
The highest number of tigers is in Madhya Pradesh in central India, which has 526. The tiger is India’s national animal.
The Global Tiger Forum:
The Global Tiger Forum, an international collaboration of tiger-bearing countries, in 2010 at the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit has set a goal of doubling the count of wild tigers by 2022.
The Global Tiger Forum (GTF) is the only inter- governmental international body established with members from willing countries to embark on a global campaign to protect the Tiger.
Utilizing co-operative policies, common approaches, technical expertise, scientific modules and other appropriate programmes and controls the GTF is focused on saving the remaining 5 sub-species of Tigers distributed over 13 Tiger Range countries of the world.
Why is a tiger census needed?
The tiger sits at the peak of the food chain, and its conservation is important to ensure the well-being of the forest ecosystem.
The tiger estimation exercise includes habitat assessment and prey estimation. The numbers reflect the success or failure of conservation efforts.
This is an especially important indicator in a fast-growing economy like India where the pressures of development often run counter to the demands of conservation.
More than 80% of the world’s wild tigers are in India, and it’s crucial to keep track of their numbers.
Reasons for Increase in Tiger Population:
According to Nitin Desai of Wildlife Protection Society of India, there has been no organised poaching by traditional gangs in Central Indian landscapes since 2013.
Due to increased vigilance and conservation efforts by the Forest Department. Organised poaching rackets have been all but crushed
The rehabilitation of villages outside core areas in many parts of the country has led to the availability of more inviolate space for tigers.
The increased protection has encouraged the tiger to breed.
The estimation exercises have become increasingly more accurate over the years. Wildlife officials used mobile application M-STrIPES (Monitoring System For Tigers-Intensive Protection and Ecological Status) to estimate the big cat population.
The M-STrIPES, the application used by forest guards, is GPS-enabled and helps to capture data relating to tiger sightings, deaths, wildlife crime and ecological observations while patrolling.
Where has the tiger population increased the most?
Since tigers keep moving between states, conservationists prefer to talk about tiger numbers in terms of landscapes.
The biggest increase has been in Madhya Pradesh a massive 218 individuals (71%) from 308 in 2014 to 526.
In Maharashtra, the number has gone up from 190 to 312 (64%), and in Karnataka, from 406 to 524 (118, or 29%). Uttarakhand has gained over 100 tigers (340 to 442; 30%)
India’s five tiger landscapes are: Shivalik Hills and Gangetic Plains, Central Indian Landscape and Eastern Ghats, Western Ghats, North-East Hills and Brahmaputra Plains, and the Sundarbans.
India will have to put much greater emphasis on improving the perception of people about tigers. This can be done only through deployment of Rapid Response Units with a dedicated team of forest personnel in tiger-bearing ranges.
Additionally, there will have to be a deep-rooted awareness campaign in forest villages so that people are able to change behaviour to reduce interactions with tigers.
We have to create a healthy balance between sustainability and development.
Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh and Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala are emerged as the best managed tiger reserves in the country, out of the total 50 tiger reserves.
The government has taken steps for preventing poaching activities which includes a special strategy for monsoon patrolling etc.
Tigers are terminal consumers in the ecological food pyramid, and their conservation results in the conservation of all trophic levels in an ecosystem.
Therefore, saving tiger, ecologically is saving an entire forest and all other components of the forest ecosystems.