Contiguous forests boost tiger population

The tiger’s natural habitat across the Western Ghats puts behind even the famed Sunderbans where 70 striped felines have been recorded in the latest head count.

Besides, conservation efforts in Karnataka appear to have far out-stripped Madhya Pradesh which, till the latest census, led the Project Tiger’s attempts to preserve and protect the country’s national animal.

“The Western Ghats is a place where protection has been easy with people being more inclined towards conservation. The technology used in the census, for instance ‘Camera trap,’ definitely led to more detection,” said a senior forest officer.

According to the new census report, the tiger population has been estimated at 34 to 47 in 435.5 sq km of Sharavathi Valley (Anshi- Dandeli). The big cat population was estimated at 32 to 47 in Kudremukh Bhadra region which spreads across 327.4 sq km. As many as 350 to 411 tigers have been estimated to be present in 5,033 sq km area of Nagarahole, Mudumalai-Wayanad region. The increase, according to experts, has been a result of several advantages and proper monitoring.

The increasing ungulate population has also played a major role in stable population. The role of the forest department in educating people, especially the police, besides the role of the judiciary and the media have contributed to conservation and monitoring.

In addition to the undisturbed habitat of Bandipur, Nagarahole and Mudumalai, being a contiguous forest with least fragmentation (except a few encroachments by resorts) has also contributed to the increase in tiger population.

A senior officer said: “North has several tribal groups indulging in poaching activities with a good network to smuggle out the catch to Tibet and other regions. But here the regular monitoring and terrain have made such activities ineffective,” he said.

Being a contiguous forest has been an advantage to the tiger reserves in the State as the spillover population in Tamil Nadu and the State have been supporting each other.

The spillover populations of Bandipur and Mudumalai have been supporting each other, while the Biligirirangana Temple Wildlife Sanctuary (BRTWLS) and
Satyamangala have also been supportive of population in either region.

The State has pushed Madhya Pradesh to second position, with 267 tigers. Maharashtra has 169 tigers, Tamil Nadu has 163, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have 72 and 71 respectively.

The increase in tiger population in the Western Ghats landscape is the culmination of landscape, protection, monitoring  management, awareness and abundance of prey.

‘Camera Trap’ an advantage

The adoption of ‘Camera Trap’ method has been an advantage to the census as it has helped identify more tigers. However, the pug mark method, according to officials, is more effective in arriving at near accurate numbers. With the numbers having increased, the authorities feel that DNA analysis will be a better option. The first DNA analysis was done in the State in BRTWLS in 2004, where a population of 27 tigers was estimated.

Landscape

Of the five landscapes, Western Ghats has been estimated to have a little more than 500 tigers. The Shivalik Gangetic plains, with Corbett and Rajaji national parks, have about 353 tigers. Central India, where the number is dwindling, still has an estimated 601 tigers, while the North Eastern Region with Brahmaputura has an estimated 148 tigers. The fifth landscape, the mangroves of Sunderbans, have an estimated 70 tigers.

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