India has around 1,500 tigers left in the wild, says an official survey. The figure might come as a shock to wildlife lovers as a census conducted six years ago had pinned the big cat population at 3,652.
Brought out as a booklet titled "Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India", the survey was jointly conducted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority of the ministry of environment and forests and the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India.
The report, which is available with IANS, says the total tiger population in India is just 1,500. The figure, however, excludes the count from Jharkhand and the Sundarbans area.
"The assessment has shown that though the tiger has lost much ground due to direct poaching, loss of quality habitat and loss of its prey, there is still hope," it says.
The last census conducted in India in 2001-2002 said there were 3,642 tigers left in the wild. Going by this figure, the tiger population has fallen by 60 per cent today. A century ago the number was around 40,000.
The report divides the tiger population into four regions. The first is the Shivalik- Gangetic plain landscape complex covering Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar. The total tiger count in this region is 297, with Uttarakhand recording the highest numbers at 178.
The second region is the Central Indian landscape complex and Eastern Ghats landscape complex that includes Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra,, Orissa, Rajashthan and Jharkhand. In this region, the total count is 601, with Madhya Pradesh having 300 tigers.
The third region is the Western Ghats landscape complex that includes Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In the third region, the total tiger count is 402 with Karnataka having 290 tigers.
The fourth is the North East Hill and Brahmputra Flood Plains and includes Assam, Arunanchal Pradesh, Mizoram, West Bengal. In this region, the total tiger count is 200.
The tiger count in Jharkhand and the Sundarbans could not be assessed as data provide by the state was not as per protocol.
This time data was collected by a scientific method. In past, it used to be collected by counting tiger pugmarks that depended on experts identifying individual big cats.
"The pilot project evolved field-friendly data collection protocols in consultation with field managers and scientists," says the report.
"The monitoring programme used remote sensing, geographical information system and global positioning system technology in combination with high resolution spatial data and field data, based on sign surveys, camera tapping and distance sampling, to effectively monitor tiger and prey population."
"Tigers are a conservation dependent species, requiring large contiguous forest with fair interspersion of undisturbed breeding areas. This leaves little choice other than to evolve strategies by mainstreaming conservation priorities in regional development policy and planning for managing priorities areas identified in the landscape complex."