Here’s some good news for wildlife lovers! At least 99 tigers and 96 leopards were sighting during the nightlong machan (waterhole) census in just one day at different tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries, including the famed Tadoba, Melghat and Pench in Maharashtra. The census was done on May 6, which was a full moon night.
According to the state wildlife wing, apart from big cats, a number of rare species such as pangolin and mouse deer were also sighted. "If 99 tiger were sighted in just a day in protected forest areas, it indicates that the tiger population in the state would be over 200," claims Kishore Mishrikotkar, assistant conservator of forests (Wildlife).
During the census, 634 wild dogs, 621 bears, 43 jackals, 153 wolves, 19 foxes, 2444 bisons, 14 bears and other wild animals were also sighted. The census was carried out only in 6 national parks (four of these are tiger reserves) and 37 wildlife sanctuaries. However, the wildlife wing could not carry out the census in Bhamragarh Wildlife Sanctuary and Chaprala sanctuary in Gadchiroli because of naxalite problem.
The waterhole machan census technique is widely used to count animals when they visit waterholes. This technique is used when water sources are not numerous and widely scattered in the area. The best time to conduct a waterhole census is at the height of the dry season when water is a limiting factor. And that was the reason to conduct it during summer, in May this year.
The state wildlife warden and principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF)-Wildlife, SWH Naqvi, informed that 45 big cats had been sighted in Tadoba in Chandrapur district and 22 tigers were spotted in Melghat tiger reserve in Amravati in a single day.
However, not a single tiger was sighted in Navegaon National Park in Bhandara. But as many as seven tigers and an equal number of leopards were sighted in the neighbouring Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary in Gondia district.
Naqvi said that the daylong census was carried out only in protected forest areas. Maharashtra’s forest cover is 50,650 sq kms which is 16.46% of the total geographical area of the state. The state has 8,739 sq km of very dense forest while the area under moderately dense forest is 20,834 sq km and open forest in the state amounts to 21,077 sq kms. The Maharashtra has six national parks and 40 wildlife sanctuaries. These protected forest areas constitute around 2.5% of the total geographical area of the state and 15% of the forest cover in Maharashtra. And the recent wildlife census was carried out only in protected forest area.
The tiger population in the state has increased considerably of late, thanks to better forest and wildlife management. The population of the big cat has gone up from 103 in 2006 census to 169 in 2010 census. Wildlife experts estimate that the tiger population has now touched 200 figure in the state. The number of tigers in Tadoba tiger reserve has risen from 53 to 69 as compared to the last census. Tadoba has probably become the first tiger reserve in the country to spot as many as 32 tiger cubs since January 2010.