Tiger experts and conservationists in West Bengal are having trouble accepting the big cat figures released by the Centre on Tuesday. They believe that the tiger count attributed to the state is much lower than the actual figures. Also, the increase in count in Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka is huge and undoubtedly exaggerated.
“’West Bengal’s tiger count is not acceptable to me. Clearly, the actual figures of the two tiger reserve projects in Bengal are not reflected in the results of this estimation exercise. The results show that there are 76 big cats at the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve (STR) and 3 in Buxa reserve but these figures are far from accurate and hence do not reflect the actual picture,” said Pranabesh Sanyal, a former field director of STR, a tiger expert and a member of International Union for Conservation of Nature.
According to him, there are 200 tigers in the Sunderbans - 160 in the reserve area and 40 in the South 24-Parganas division (or buffer zone).
“How could this number come down to 76 and 3 respectively in 2014 when the count had been done through the camera trapping method whereby the pictures of the tigers had been taken,” he said. He added that it was not acceptable that Uttarakhand had shown an increase of nearly 70% within four years.
The Centre’s budget on tiger conservation is finalised after taking into account this count, Sanyal pointed out.
Hindustan Times also spoke to Anil Mistry, who runs an NGO and joins in the conservation efforts made by STR from time to time.
“I believe the number of tigers is a lot more than the figures announced by the government. We have seen tigers and their cubs roaming the jungles and believe the count has increased. There are 48 islands in the Sunderbans that have a tiger presence, so the figures announced by the central government are lower,” Mistry said.
“We have no detailed report in our hands but the number has stablised as shown in the report,” said Pradip Kumar Vyas, the director of the Sunderbans Biosphere.
In the table published by Union government, the number of tigers in Uttarakhand was 227 in 2010 but in 2014 it increased to 340 - an increase of 113 tigers. Similarly, in case of Tamil Nadu it was163, now it is 229.
By contrast, the growth rate in STR is only 6%. A section of forest officials are not satisfied with the figures either, said sources.