Tigers can survive with humans, debunking the popular conception that the big cats like solitary space inside the forests, says a new study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, which can help India in better management of its tiger population.
India, in this March, declared that there were 1,706 tigers in India, as against 1411 in 2006, stirring a debate whether tigers and humans can survive together with wildlife areas shrinking around the country.
The study conducted in 38,000 square kms of tiger reserves in Karnataka comes at a time when the environment ministry has released new draft guidelines to relocate 10,000 people from 41 tiger reserves in India and says the tigers can survive even in human dominated landscapes through effective protection of the source populations.
"Our results re-enforce earlier findings that prey depletion and human disturbance are key drivers of local tiger extinctions and tigers can persist even in human dominated landscapes through effective protection of source populations," said Ullas K Karanth, director of Bangalore based Centre for Wildlife Studies.
The study, conducted in Malenad-Mysore Tiger Landscape (MMTL) in Western Ghats, found that presence of livestock and human presence proved to be a negative influence on local the tiger presence, but the tigers managed to overcome these influences. "Good tiger numbers showed that they can live with humans," Karanth said.
The study also demystifies the government claim that the tigers survive better in dense and less human populated forests.
"Tigers have persisted better in MMTL than far more extensively forested, sparsely populated and economically underdeveloped landscapes in India," the study by six ecologists said.
And, it was because of effective protection provided to the source population.
Unlike tiger reserves in southern India, most reserves have failed to identify source populations thereby resulting in fluctuation in population figures between 2006 and 2010 tiger estimation.
A recent global conservation analysis showed that about 70 % of tigers in the wild now survive in source populations, identified on basis of anecdotal evidence, occupying just 6% of the habitat.
But, the survey done in 2006 and 2007, found that landscape based conservation as propagated by the government does not help in protecting source populations and arresting current tiger population decline.