Corbett National Park may have to give up its status as the best home for tigers in India. A non-governmental organisation, Aranyak, has found that the Kaziranga National Park in Assam has 32 tigers for every 100 sq km, as compared to Corbett, which has 20 for the same area.
Tiger density in other reserves hovers between 8 and 12.
The assessment was based on monitoring of tigers with the camera trap technology used by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) for conducting nation-wide tiger census.
"If we go by their assessment, Kaziranga should have 100-120 tigers," said an official of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). Kaziranga, which is also known for its rhinos and elephants, had about 30 tigers in 1972, and 86 in 2007, as per the last tiger census conducted in India.
NCTA officials, however, said the real picture of the tiger population in Kaziranga would emerge only in a couple of months when the tiger census by WII is finalised.
"We expect to complete the first assessment by August," said Qamar Qureshi, a WII scientist, also part of the census.
Aranyak's assessment prompted Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh to say tiger density in Kaziranga is higher than in Corbett, which he said was under stress because of increased tourism activity.
"Initial indications on tiger census are encouraging. But I cannot say whether the tiger population would be more than 1,400 as estimated in 2007," Ramesh said.
In the first phase of tiger census completed in south India and parts of north India, WII scientists have spotted some tigers in naxal-affected tiger reserves. Scientists entered naxal-affected Indravati Tiger Reserve in Chattisgarh, Palamu Tiger Reserve in Jharkhand and Simlipal in Orissa and got tiger excreta samples.
"Some tigers have also been sighted in Indravati and Palamu," Ramesh said. Ramesh had earlier called these areas the worst tiger homes in India.