Small leap in the wild for big cats

Small leap in the wild for big cats

Discounting popular apprehension of their ever-dwindling population, the latest tiger count in the country has put their numbers at 1706 — an increase of 295 over the last official count of 1411 undertaken in 2006.

The 2010 census – based on night camera traps, satellite tracking and prey-base estimates – actually provides a broad range, suggesting the total number of tigers in India may vary from 1,571 on the lower side to 1,875 on the upper. The mean value, 1,706, has been taken as the official count.

With 300 big cats, Karnataka hosts India’s largest tigerpopulation. The Nagarhole-Madumalai-Waynad area is now the world’s biggest tiger landscape as the region is home to 382 of the beasts (range between 354 and 441).

While the tiger population has gone up in southern India and Maharashtra, the big cats are on the decline in north Andhra Pradesh and parts of Madhya Pradesh, said Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh after releasing the latest count here on Monday.

For the first time, the tiger census includes Sunderbans, which was left out in 2006 because of the complexities associated in undertaking the survey in a difficult terrain. The 2010 census shows that Sunderban in India may be having 70 tigers (range between 64 and 90) while the extension of the same mangrove forests in Bangladesh – not included in Indian count – may be having another 300 tigers.

Satellite tracking was used in the Sunderbans to keep an eye on the animals as tigers from both sides frequently cross the border. Even though India has more tigers now, the big cats face threats due to loss of peripheral jungles, which makes tigers more vulnerable by isolating them in a few locations.

Scientists could not collect any information from the Maoist-affected Indravati (Chhattishgarh) but managed to carry out the survey for the first time in another Naxal heartland of Palamou, said Qamar Qureshi, a scientist at Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.

“Close to 30 per cent tigers were spotted outside the 39 tiger reserves. Tiger occupancy has decreased from 93,600 sq km to 72,800 sq km. This is alarming, which means tiger corridors are under severe threat,” Ramesh said.


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