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Why the tiger population in India is increasing?

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Why the tiger population in India is increasing?

Context:

The four-year tiger census report, Status of Tigers in India, 2018, released by the Prime Minister, shows numbers of the big cat have increased and the total count has risen to 2,967 from 2,226 in 2014 i.e. an increase of 741 individuals (aged more than one year), or 33%, in four years.

Background:

  • This is by far the biggest increase in terms of both numbers and percentage since the four-yearly census in 2006 the number was 1,411 than rose by 295 (21%) to 1,706 in 2010 and by 520 (30%) to 2,226 in 2014.
  • Tiger numbers are always projected in a range — 2,967, which is the mean of an estimated range of 2,603 to 3,346.
  • The 2018 figure has a great degree of credibility because, according to the report, as many as 2,461 individual tigers (83% of the total) have actually been photographed by trap cameras. Against 1,540 individuals (69%) in 2014.
  • A total 3,81,400 sq. km of forests were surveyed; 5,22,996 km on foot. 3,17,958 habitat plots were sampled for vegetation and prey dung.
  • There were 26,838 camera trap locations, which covered 1,21,337 sq km.
  • A staggering 3,48,58,623 wildlife pictures were captured. Of them, 76,651 were of tigers; 51,777 of leopards. The entire effort consumed 5,93,882-man-days.

Need for the Tiger census:

  • The tiger sits at the peak of the food chain, and its conservation is important to ensure the well-being of the forest ecosystem.
  • The tiger estimation exercise includes habitat assessment and prey estimation which reflect the success or failure of conservation efforts.
  • This is an especially important indicator in a fast-growing economy like India where the pressures of development often run counter to the demands of conservation.
  • The Global Tiger Forum, an international collaboration of tiger-bearing countries, has set a goal of doubling the count of wild tigers by 2022. More than 80% of the world’s wild tigers are in India, and it’s crucial to keep track of their numbers.

Key Highlights of the report:

  • The biggest increase has been in Madhya Pradesh a massive 218 individuals (71%) from 308 in 2014 to 526.
  • In Maharashtra, the number has gone up from 190 to 312 (64%), and in Karnataka, from 406 to 524 (118, or 29%). Uttarakhand has gained over 100 tigers (340 to 442; 30%)
  • Only one of the 20 tiger-bearing states has seen a fall in numbers i.e. Chhattisgarh, where the census counted 19 tigers, significantly fewer than the 46 of 2014.
  • Greater conservation efforts are needed in the critically vulnerable Northeast hills and Odisha.
  • No tiger has been found in the Buxa, Palamau and Dampa reserves.
  • The brightest spot in the non-protected tiger-bearing areas is the Brahmapuri division of the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, which has more than 40 tigers.

Reason for the increase in number:

  • the number of tiger reserves from 28 in 2006, went up to 50 in 2018, extending protection to larger numbers of tigers over the years.
  • Healthy increases in core area populations, there has been an increased focus on tigers even in the areas under the territorial and commercial forestry arms of Forest Departments.
  • The other important reason is conservation efforts by the Forest Department and increased vigilance, and the fact that organised poaching rackets have been all but crushed.
  • The increased protection has encouraged the tiger to breed as tigers are fast breeders when conditions are conducive.
  • The rehabilitation of villages outside core areas in many parts of the country has led to the availability of more inviolate space for tigers.
  • Also, because estimation exercises have become increasingly more accurate over the years, it is possible that many tigers that eluded enumerators in earlier exercises were counted this time.

Way forward:

  • As the animals spill out of protected areas, their proximity to human habitats increases leading to human-tiger conflict and threats to livestock.
  • This warrants a new conservation challenge for devising wildlife protection models that work outside the tiger reserves and that require a deft balancing of the imperative of conservation with the needs of local people and the demands of infrastructure development.

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