Tiger numbers sink to record low
The Tiger population in India is at an all-time low, according to the government’s tiger census report released on Tuesday. It is estimated there are only 1,411 tigers are now left in the wild, the report said.
The maximum estimated figure, the best scenario possible, is 1,657, which is lower than the 1,800 tigers estimated in India’s first tiger census in 1960.
This is a massive fall from 2002 when the tiger population was estimated to be 3,642.
The latest figures are of all tiger reserves except those in Jharkhand, and Indravati in Chhattisgarh, where the Naxal threat prevented estimation. In Sunderbans, the estimation process is still on.
Central India, which has the large tiger population states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, has seen the maximum losses. Fifty-nine per cent of the tiger population of Madhya Pradesh, and 50% of Maharashtra, has been wiped out.
Tiger reserves in the south — in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh — and the Jim Corbett Park in the terai have done well, said Rajesh Gopal, member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
The Wildlife Institute of India blamed poaching, increasing man-animal conflict, falling prey base and habitat loss for tiger as major reasons for the huge fall in tiger population between 2001 and 2006. But Gopal said it was not too late to save the tigers. “We need to take proactive steps.”
Wildlife conservationist Valmik Thapar said efforts should be initiated as soon as possible to save the big cats. “It is now time to act and save tigers from human beings. We have to create inviolate areas for tigers and provide modern weapons to forest guards,” he said. Thapar added that vacancies of frontline forest staff should be filled fast.
Gopal said that the census methodology adopted in 2002 was not foolproof. “Experts had doubted the pug mark counting methodology because it could lead to higher estimation. We adopted the modern technology of camera trap and DNA sampling to reach a near correct figure,” he said.