Protecting big cats, govt's new priority

Protecting big cats, govt's new priority

Four southern states are ideal for tiger conservation.

Even as the Bandipur-Mudhumalai and Bandipur-Wyanad stretch closure order has met with strong opposition, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), under the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), declared the Nagarhole-Mudhumalai-Bandipur-Wyanad region as the most-populated tiger reserve. It has also been proposed that the region be maintained as an interstate tiger reserve.

The reserve involves the State’s Nagarhole and Bandipur national parks as well as Tamil Nadu’s Mudhumalai wildlife sanctuary (now a tiger reserve).

The countrywide effort to arrive at landscape-level conservation strategies determining occupancy, population limits and habitat condition has found that the southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are ideal for the conservation of the critically-endangered big cat. An estimated 280 tigers dwell here.

The post-Sariska episode took a heavy toll of the big cats. The then Project Tiger Directorate (now NTCA) was on its toe and had directed the State forest department to generate the required data for estimating tiger density through a high-tech monitoring system.

Following this the six land scapes of Shivalik- Gangetic Plains, Central Indian landscapes, Eastern Ghats, Western Ghats, North Eastern Hills, Brahmaputra and Sunderbans were monitored and analysed by experts. Several methods of sampling to estimate occupancy, relative abundance of tigers, co-predators and prey density were adopted. “It was determined that the tigers, currently occupying 21,435 sq km area in the Western Ghats, have an estimated population ranging between 297-434, of which the single-largest population of tigers is within the landscape of Nagarhole-Madumalai- Bandipur-Wyanad encompassing the three states. An estimated tiger population of 280 tigers is reported here within 10,800 sq km area,” says the report.