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Getting real: 1,411 is inflated count

India’s wild tiger population that has been estimated as 1,411 could be less than the often claimed figure, reports Chetan Chauhan.

delhi Updated: Feb 17, 2010 01:15 IST
Chetan Chauhan

India’s wild tiger population is less than the often claimed figure of 1,411 tigers.

“It (the figure) is an exaggeration,” Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh said, while launching a handbook on wildlife law enforcement in India. “I don’t know from where the figure came. Probably, the number of tigers in the wild are much lower and are diminishing day by day”.

Hindustan Times was the first to report in January that India’s wild tiger population may not be more than 1,000. Many experts have doubts over the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NCTA) figure of 1,411.

“To me, there are not more than 1,000 to 1,100 tigers in the wild,” said P.K. Sen, former director of Project Tiger.

The Tiger Census report had estimated maximum of 1,650 and minimum of 1,150 tigers in 2007. It meant an average of 1,411 tigers. Since then, over 100 deaths have been reported.

The new tiger census that uses better methodology will be completed by October and by December 2010, the number of big cat would be out.

Belinda Wright, executive director of Wildlife Protection Society of India, said: “The tiger estimate in new census would be less” than in 2008.

However, Sen said that “Except Corbett Tiger Reserve, the tiger population in most other reserves has diminished.”

But four tigers died in Corbett last month, which Anil Baluni, deputy chairman of state environment and forest advisory committee, said were because of natural reasons. “There wasn’t even a single case of poaching as all body parts were intact,” he said.

Green signal

The environment and forest ministry rejected a coalmine proposal on the ground that it would adversely impact the environment whereas approved a hydropower project.

The ministry on February 12 approved construction of a dam on Lohit river in Arunachal to produce 1,750 MW power despite protests by the groups.

“The Centre continues its neglect of the serious concerns of downstream impacts of dams in the northeast... ,” said Neeraj Vagholikar of NGO Kalpvakrish.

But a coalmine proposal in Lohara near Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve was rejected on the ground that it would adversely impact tiger population.