Tigers reduce their area of dominance provided there is enough prey population, a new government study has said, giving hope to wildlife scientists that core areas of 41 tiger reserves in India can house around 2,400 tigers, an additional of 35%.
The Dehradun based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has found that 7 to 20 tigers can live in 100 sq kms of a forest area as compared to earlier assumption that a tiger has a minimum area of dominance of around 10 sq kms.
"The exclusivity as thought earlier is not there," YV Jhala, a senior scientist with WII who has been spear heading tiger population estimate across India for the last seven years. "If there is enough prey population the tigers survive in a smaller areas"
The study conducted as part of new estimation of big cat population in the tiger reserves across India is a huge fillip to wildlife researchers as it shows that India can provide home to around 70% of world's tiger population (around 3,200) by 2020.
The WII study shows that most of the tiger reserves in India have a potential to increase the big cat density by 20 to 25% in the next four to five years with good breeding population.
The study says that the terrai tiger belt in Uttarkhand and Uttar Pradesh, which as of now haves 325 big cats can support around 455 tigers.
The Central India, which has 560 tigers, has potential to keep up to 840 tigers.
The Western Ghats can have 700 tigers as compared to 533 it has now.
Jhala said that the 82,000 sq km of tiger-land having 1,706 tigers could home 2,400 tigers. He also suggested wild to wild relocation of tigers to make optimum use of good tiger habitats.
But reaching that figure will not be easy as most of the tiger habitats are witnessing gradual decay and the prey population is becoming victim of growing human influence.
"The estimate is bare minimum but the potential but largely depend on the health of the habitat and its linkages with other wildlife areas," Jhala said.
Environment ministry officials accuse the state governments of being slow in notifying the forest corridors linking two tiger habitats.
These corridors are essential for growth of tiger population as it allows them free movement from a densely population tiger reserve to a less densely populated one.