India has 2,967 tigers, a record 33% jump over 2014
India has recorded a 33% increase in tiger numbers in the span of four years between 2014 and 2018, the All India Tiger Estimation Results released on Monday said.
PM Modi, on the occasion of international tiger day released the new estimation for 2018 which indicates there are 2967 tigers in India compared to 2226 indicated in the 2014 estimation.
Madhya Pradesh has the highest number with 526 tigers, followed by 524 in Karnataka and 442 in Uttarakhand. Karnataka had the highest number in 2014 with 406 tigers compared to 308 in Madhya Pradesh.
“India with around 3000 tigers is one of the biggest and safest habitats for tigers in the world. Three fourths of the world’s tigers are in India…it is possible to strike a healthy balance between environment and development,” Modi said while releasing the new numbers.
He also said India’s forest cover has increased, so has the number of protected areas. The number of protected areas in 2014 was 692 which has increased to 860 in 2019 while the number of community reserves has increased from 43 to more than 100 now.
Prakash Javadekar, union environment minister said forest cover has increased by 15,000 sq km between 2014 and 2018.
The new numbers have brought cheer to wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists. “It’s a great day. Now India has more than 70% of global tigers. It has happened with a lot of good practices,” said Rajesh Gopal, former member secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and secretary general of Global Tiger Forum.
But there are number of concerns that continue to lurk about the methodology of tiger estimation used by India. India’s tiger count methodology has been questioned by some scientists who have issues with the so-called double sampling methodology which India uses to estimate tiger numbers. India abandoned the pug mark census method in 2004 after this failed to detect the complete extinction of tigers in Sariska tiger reserve. The new method being used involves ground surveys of all tiger bearing forests, estimating prey abundance, understanding habitat characteristics, mapping other tiger signs, and camera trap pictures of tigers.
Veteran wildlife biologist, K Ullas Karanth said as early as 2015 that the statistical model used may be giving misleading results. Between 2006 and 2010, tiger habitat in India shrank by 22% but tiger numbers rose by 16%, he pointed out. The 2014 data showed another 30% jump in the next four years. “Estimated leaps of over 100% in just four years, reported for some states, are also not plausible,” Karanth wrote in an article in The Guardian. He added that the Wildlife Conservation Society, Oxford University, and the Indian Statistical Institute tried to evaluate the government’s models with little success.
In the double sampling method, counts of tiger tracks are correlated with actual tigers photographed in small areas to provide region wide estimates.